The cold winter weather often makes us want to lock ourselves indoors and nestle into our warm homes until warmer weather arrives. This time of year, exercising isn’t always top-of-mind, which can lead to a drop in fitness and overall well-being. However, with a little effort, you can enjoy plenty of fun and effective ways to stay fit during winter. Some don’t even involve leaving your home!
If you’re looking for ways to stay active this winter, here are 19 of the best winter workouts. But first, let’s explore why exercise can feel so hard in winter.
Why is it hard to workout in winter?
If you’d much rather lay around and hibernate during the colder months of the year, researchers believe it may be due to lower levels of vitamin D. This primary nutrient supplies oxygen to your muscles.
A 2018 European Journal of Preventive Cardiology study found that higher vitamin D levels are associated with increased cardiorespiratory fitness. With more vitamin D, your heart and lungs are better equipped to supply oxygen to your muscles when you exercise.1
Typically, sunlight is your primary source of vitamin D, but in the winter, there’s much less of it. As a result, your vitamin D levels drop, and your fitness suffers. Workouts might be more difficult if you’re not getting adequate amounts of vitamin D because your muscles aren’t getting as much oxygen.
So, what’s the solution?
In the winter, taking a vitamin D supplement and maintaining a healthy diet can help increase vitamin D levels, but be careful not to overdo it. Large doses of vitamin D supplements can cause calcium buildup in your blood, resulting in symptoms like nausea, vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination. Eventually, it may even progress to bone pain and kidney problems.2
Finding a fun way to exercise can also help get you up off the couch and keep you motivated to move your body.
What are the benefits of exercising in winter?
Although you might not always feel motivated to do it, exercising in the cold winter weather has several significant benefits:
- Better endurance: With cooler temperatures (as long as they’re not too cold), your workout may be more efficient. Since your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you use less energy.3
- Increased metabolism: Research has also indicated that exercising in cold weather can turn white fat into calorie-burning brown fat, improving your metabolism.4
- Enhanced mood: Exercising outdoors during the winter can increase your exposure to sunlight, which can help prevent mood disorders like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression. Indoor winter exercise can have a similar effect by boosting feel-good hormones.5
What are the best winter workouts at home?
Despite the great benefits of outdoor exercise in winter, you may not always want to get out in the cold. Here are several great ideas if you’re wondering how to exercise in the winter without going to the gym or leaving your home.
Indoor cycling is an excellent workout; just because you’re not doing it outdoors doesn’t mean you won’t see the results. Research backs this up and shows indoor cycling burns lots of calories, improves your cardiovascular fitness, helps lower blood pressure, sheds body fat, and strengthens your bones.6 If you’re new to indoor cycling, try biking with Vingo. It’s a fun and exciting way to stay fit.
Indoor running or walking
Similarly, running or walking on your treadmill is a good way to fit in a cardio session during the winter. And there are plenty of health benefits of running! However, if boredom gets the best of you, try walking or running indoors with Vingo. Our fitness app allows you to run incredible routes worldwide, with features like a customizable avatar and real-time chat with other Vingo users.
Pilates or yoga
Another ideal component of a winter workout plan is pilates or yoga. If you spend more time sitting during the winter months, these types of workouts are ideal for you because they can help reduce hip stiffness. They promote strength, mobility, and flexibility with gentle movements. They’re also perfect for cross-training because the muscle-strengthening movements of pilates and yoga can protect you from injury when participating in high-intensity winter activities like snowboarding or skiing.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art and a gentle, meditative practice. It’s a safe and effective way for people of all ages to move their bodies indoors, especially when it’s difficult to get out in winter. It also has many health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular health, reducing stress and anxiety, alleviating back pain, and enhancing balance.7
Dancing is another fun way to exercise indoors during the winter. Although all you need is your favorite music and a little space, you can also turn things up a notch and take an online dance class on your own or with your partner.
Bodyweight exercises are perfect for at-home workouts during the winter because you don’t need a ton of equipment or time to have an effective workout. You can improve your aerobic capacity, muscle endurance, and strength and enhance your balance with just a few minutes of exercise a day.8 People of all fitness levels can enjoy the benefits, too, because you can easily modify the number of reps, resistance, and pace.
Boxing is a fun addition to any winter workout plan. It burns calories and fat by increasing your heart rate, and it works several muscle groups to help you strengthen and tone your body. Whether you’ve boxed before or not, you can find free at-home boxing workouts for all levels on YouTube.
If you have a rowing machine at home, using it regularly during the winter months will provide an intense full-body workout. This type of workout is also beneficial for elderly individuals or people categorized as overweight because it’s a low-impact physical activity that won’t put any additional pressure on your joints.9
Barre exercise routines combine elements of ballet, yoga, pilates, and strength training for a challenging and effective workout. Although you can take barre classes outside your home, they’re also easy to find on YouTube for free.
What are the best outdoor winter workouts?
Getting outside to exercise in the winter has physical health benefits. It can also improve your mental health during the time of year when a lack of sunlight can contribute to mood disorders or depression. Even when it’s cold and snowy, there are plenty of fantastic outdoor winter workouts if you’re up for it! Here are some ideas to try out this winter:
If you have the gear and a place to do it, skiing is a fun and exciting way to get active during winter. Of course, you might need some help getting started if you’ve never done it before, and you’ll need to rent or own the gear.
You can burn hundreds of calories an hour snowboarding. And it’s fun! Although you’re not holding onto poles like you are while skiing, you’re still very physically active and may reap benefits like lowered cholesterol, better heart health, and reduced blood pressure.
Sledding is a great form of aerobic exercise, and walking up those hills to get to the top will strengthen and tone your muscles. Not to mention, sledding is just a ton of fun, so it can also do wonders to elevate your mood and boost your mental health.
Ice skating is a tough workout! It works your legs, core, and practically every other muscle group in your body. It also enhances joint flexibility and endurance and is an excellent aerobic exercise.
Walking will always be a solid exercise, regardless of age or fitness level. It can boost your energy levels, prevent injuries while you’re exercising in other ways, improves your cardiovascular health, and works all the same muscles you use while running, except with less intensity.
You might not consider outdoor cycling a winter sport, many people cycle outside year-round! Although you may have to adjust your expectations and complete a shorter ride than usual, you can still get an excellent workout with these helpful tips to improve your winter biking experience.
Other fun winter workouts
If you’re okay with venturing outside your home to head to the gym or another facility, these activities are great ones to add to your winter workout plan:
Rock wall climbing
Rock wall climbing improves your overall endurance and works your back, abdominals, legs, shoulders, and arms. It’s also an excellent way to build confidence, concentration, and self-esteem since it can be a mentally challenging exercise.10 Indoor climbing walls offer lessons for all ages and ability levels.
Indoor sports like soccer, basketball, hockey, bowling, or tennis are competitive and exciting ways to stay fit in the winter if that’s what you prefer. They’re also fantastic opportunities to socialize with existing friends or make new ones. All you need is a local gym that offers rental gear, and you’re good to go!
Swimming is a full-body workout and a year-round activity (if you have access to an indoor pool). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can also decrease your risk of chronic illness, improve the use of arthritic joints, decrease pain from osteoarthritis, and enhance your quality of life and mental health.11
Key Takeaways:A winter workout plan doesn’t have to be boring or ineffective. There are plenty of fun and productive ways to get moving, whether you prefer to stay inside or head outdoors.
- Marawan, A., Kurbanova, N., & Qayyum, R. (2018). Association between serum vitamin D levels and cardiorespiratory fitness in the adult population of the USA. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 26(7), 750–755. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487318807279
- Vitamin D toxicity: What if you get too much? (2022, March 22). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/vitamin-d-toxicity/faq-20058108?reDate=01022023
- Gatterer, H., Dünnwald, T., Turner, R., Csapo, R., Schobersberger, W., Burtscher, M., Faulhaber, M., & Kennedy, M. D. (2021). Practicing Sport in Cold Environments: Practical Recommendations to Improve Sport Performance and Reduce Negative Health Outcomes. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(18), 9700. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18189700
- How brown fat improves metabolism. (2019, September 17). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-brown-fat-improves-metabolism
- Harvard Health. (2018, December 1). The wonders of winter workouts. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-wonders-of-winter-workouts
- Chavarrias, M., Carlos-Vivas, J., Collado-Mateo, D., & Pérez-Gómez, J. (2019). Health Benefits of Indoor Cycling: A Systematic Review. Medicina, 55(8), 452. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina55080452
- Tai Chi: What You Need To Know. (n.d.). NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tai-chi-what-you-need-to-know
- Archila, L. R., Bostad, W., Joyner, M. J., & Gibala, M. J. (2021). Simple Bodyweight Training Improves Cardiorespiratory Fitness with Minimal Time Commitment: A Contemporary Application of the 5BX Approach. International journal of exercise science, 14(3), 93–100.
- Higuchi, M., & Asaka, M. (2013). Effects of Rowing Exercise on Prevention of Metabolic Syndrome and Sarcopenia for Senior People. The Korean Journal of Obesity, 22(3), 123. https://doi.org/10.7570/kjo.2013.22.3.123
- Climbing. (n.d.). NHS Inform. https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/keeping-active/activities/climbing
- Health Benefits of Swimming | Healthy Swimming | Healthy Water | CDC. (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/health_benefits_water_exercise.html