There are numerous benefits to a winter walking routine: A brisk walk in chilly weather can get your heart pumping, boost your energy, and even burn some extra calories. Making time to soak up precious daylight may also help ease winter blues, support quality sleep and up your immunity during the flu (and COVID-19) season.
It’s true that when winter arrives, even the most avid walkers struggle to stay motivated with dark mornings, dreary weather and the pull of the couch and fuzzy blankets. However, these pro tips help you get outdoors:
Hygge, aka the embrace of anything cozy, is one of many ways Scandanavians survive harsh winters. Add comfort to your walks by wearing soft, warm and colorful winter gear. “Layers are crucial,” says Keegan Draper, a certified personal trainer. Make sure to include these three must-haves: a moisture-wicking base layer made of polyester or merino wool, an insulation layer of fleece, and a protective layer with a waterproof jacket or coat. Since your body’s focused on warming your core first, a hat, gloves, scarf or face mask and thick socks are especially important, too, says Draper.
The first step is often the hardest, especially when you know you’re walking into freezing cold conditions and wind chill. The fix: Warm up completely before you step outside with dynamic stretches like high knees, butt kicks, walking lunges, leg swings and arm circles, suggests Hannah Daugherty, a certified personal trainer and health coach.
You may also need to tweak the time of day you take your walks and set a new routine that better suits the winter, says Draper. Maybe you walk later in the morning when the sun is up and warms the air a bit. Or pick activities that line up with scheduled walks, such as pairing hot chocolate or a peppermint-flavored coffee and a walk with your dog before work, a long stroll after lunch to take in the sunniest time of day and support healthy digestion, or an interval-walking workout in the evening to catch stunning winter sunsets.
“To take your mind off of the cold, find something interesting to listen to,” suggests Draper. Then, tell yourself you can only listen to your favorite podcast, audiobook, language lessons or new music when you’re on the move. Stick with this simple rule, and you might find yourself scheduling in more winter walks.
If you know daily walks won’t happen without someone to keep you accountable, join a virtual or in-person walking group or a community with a high step count like a rucking club or walking book club (yep, that’s a thing). Another great option is to schedule walking calls with a friend and challenge each other to hit new step goals.
“One surprising way to make winter walks more enjoyable is to reap the benefits for productivity,” says Elliott Upton, a certified personal trainer. Sitting around all winter long can make it harder to think clearly or get through a challenging workday, but research shows taking a walk can stimulate creativity and inspiration.
To walk more over the weekend, find ways to connect with others, and celebrate the holidays, suggests Upton. Consider planning scenic winter hikes with friends, taking scavenger hunt-style nature walks with your kids, or exploring holiday markets or winter wonderland events with your loved ones.
To become more active, try setting a simple goal to increase (and track) your daily steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app and choose a 28-day step plan to learn tips to boost your activity.