Tips to stay motivated and active during the cold winter months

As the days become shorter, the weather gets colder and the holidays wind down, many of us look forward to settling in for a long winter’s nap. But winter doesn’t have to be a time of inactivity. Here are some tips to stay motivated and active during these cold winter months.

It is important to stay active.

Cold weather doesn’t have to slow you down. There are plenty of great winter activities like skiing, sledding or ice skating, but even going for a walk every day can help you stay fit and healthy.

Being active through exercise helps keep your immune system strong, reducing your risk of getting colds, flu or other common winter illnesses. Exercise also causes your body to release mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins, which may reduce your risk of developing a type of depression often tied to fall and winter weather called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Here’s more on staying active:

  • Exercise will get your blood pumping and increase your energy and calorie burning both during your workout and after. Not only is exercise necessary for weight control — it also helps with mood and heart health.

  • It’s important to remember that you are your most important piece of exercise equipment. Don’t feel you have to give up your exercise routine if you can’t get to a gym. Try starting the day with crunches, push-ups, planks, squats and lunges. Park farther away at stores or work. Take the stairs, instead of the elevator or escalator.

  • If you’re new to exercise, you’ll want to take it slow at first, increasing your time and intensity gradually. Take time to stretch and cool down. Start with just a five- to 10-minute-a-day exercise routine and continue that for a week. Each week add an additional five minutes to work up to 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

  • If you venture outdoors, know your limits and don’t push yourself too hard. Cold is a stress on the body. So is exercise. Together they may be too much. Start slowly by warming up your muscles first. Try walking or light arm pumping before you engage in outdoor physical activity.

  • If you cannot safely leave your home during inclement weather, it’s still possible to get a good workout. Consider using resistance bands for strengthening, dance for aerobic activity, and yoga or Pilates for flexibility.

​​​​​​Safety tips for exercising outdoors

Dressing in layers, protecting your hands and feet, and paying attention to the forecast can help you stay safe. You don't have to let cold weather spell the end of your fitness routine. Try these tips for exercising during cold weather to stay fit, motivated, safe — and warm.

  • Check weather conditions and wind chill before you exercise outside.

  • Protect your head, hands, feet and ears. Wear gloves or mittens, a hat or headband to protect your ears and nice warm socks.

  • Don't forget safety gear. If it's dark when you exercise outside, wear reflective clothing.

  • Wear a helmet while skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

  • It's just as easy to get sunburned in the winter as it is in the summer. Wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and a lip balm with sunscreen.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Don't forget about hydration; it's just as important during cold weather as it is in the heat.

These tips can help you safely — and enjoyably — exercise when temperatures drop. But be sure to closely monitor how your body feels during cold-weather exercise to help prevent injuries.

Feeling motivated to exercise but having trouble sticking to a schedule?

Move by BJC exercise physiologist Sarah Dalton says meeting your fitness and health goals can be difficult in the best weather, and winters in St. Louis can add to that challenge. But don’t let that discourage you. Dalton offers the following tips to help you stay on track with your fitness goals:

Write down your plan — and be sure to include:
  • Your detailed long-term goal, ideally with a timeline and measurable attributes

  • Who will be a support system while you work toward this long-term goal

  • Why you chose this goal in the first place and what it will help you to accomplish

  • What steps you’re going to take to reach your goals

  • How you plan to adjust when you run into a roadblock or obstacle

Create short-term goals:

Once you’ve finished the first step of writing out your plan, come up with some short-term goals that support your long-term goal and can help keep you motivated and on track. These smaller goals will ultimately help you reach your long-term goal.

  • Find a workout partner or, if you belong to a gym, build relationships with other people at the gym. Working out can be more fun and less intimidating when you have connections with others.

  • Create a back-up workout plan in case of inclement weather. You can find virtual workouts for any goal, experience level, space and equipment you may have.

  • If you get off track one day, don’t let it derail you. Allow yourself some grace and just get back on track the next day.

  • Take rest and recovery days seriously. They allow your body to repair and recover.

  • Slowly progress in your exercise routine. If you push your body harder than it can recover from, you may set yourself back.

Find an accountability partner

Whether it’s a friend, family member, co-worker or fitness professional, find someone who supports you in your efforts and can work with you to keep you on track. It also helps us to be more accountable for our goals if someone else knows about them.

One of the best ways to stay accountable is to work out with a friend. When one of you lacks the energy to work out, the other is there to motivate and get you both to — and through — the workout.

Find ways to stay motivated

Motivation can be difficult. Whether you haven’t been sleeping well, work has gotten busy or stressful, or life doesn’t go according to plan, fitness goals can easily get pushed to the back burner.

  • Take steps to motivate yourself by being aware of your progress and taking note of the accomplishments that will lead you to your goals.

  • Track and check off all progress.

  • Celebrate the small accomplishments.

When you meet one of your short-term goals, be sure to acknowledge it and be proud.

Though it may be tempting to hibernate during the colder months, that doesn’t mean you have to let your fitness levels drop. In fact, with a few of these adjustments to your routine, you can stay active and healthy all winter long.

Move by BJC is a full-service fitness center located in the Cortex area of mid-town St. Louis providing personal training, massage therapy, group/virtual classes, and more. For more information, visit or check out these Move by BJC exercise videos.