Snowed In? Here's How to Stay Active and Safe During Severe Winter Weather

Braving the frosty embrace of winter, especially when it wraps its chilly fingers around everything, can make venturing outside for a run or a walk less appealing, to say the least. However, the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, even amid the bone-chilling cold, is well established. 

It plays a crucial role in not just our physical well-being but our mental health too, helping to ward off winter blues and keep energy levels high. The challenges of staying active during severe winter weather are real, ranging from icy paths that threaten slips and falls to the sheer discomfort of cold air filling your lungs. 

Yet, the necessity of overcoming these obstacles remain, contributing significantly to our overall health and wellness.

In this blog post, we’ll explore safe activities to keep the fire stoked, as well as other strategies to make unforgiving winter weather something you can deal with.

Understanding the Impact of Winter on Activity Levels

Winter significantly impacts activity levels, primarily due to shorter days and colder weather, profoundly affect both motivation and opportunities for exercise. The reduction in daylight hours can lead to disruptions in circadian rhythms, making it more challenging to maintain regular exercise schedules. 

Additionally, colder temperatures and adverse weather conditions can reduce the appeal of many outdoor activities (or even making them near impossible to do), further limiting opportunities for physical exercise. This seasonal shift can lead individuals to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle, which is known to have several negative health implications.

cold weather thermometer

Then there’s the benefit exercise has on mental health. Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can be particularly beneficial during winter when many individuals experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or general feelings of gloom. 

Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters, helping to improve overall well-being and combat those feelings of existential doom. Therefore, finding ways to stay active, whether through indoor exercise programs or suitable outdoor activities suited is essential for maintaining your wellbeing.

The challenge, then, is to identify and embrace suitable and alternative forms of exercise that are both appealing and feasible during the colder months. This might include indoor fitness classes, home workout routines, or winter sports that take advantage of the seasonal environment. By adapting exercise habits to suit the winter season, it's possible to overcome the barriers posed by winter, ensuring that activity levels remain consistent throughout the year.

Exercise Ideas

Indoor Exercise Ideas

As the cold weather sets in, it becomes crucial to find alternative forms of exercise that are both appealing and practical. Wondering what you can do to beat the blues? We’ve got you covered.

Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises, otherwise known as calisthenics,  are a simple yet effective way to stay fit without the need for gym equipment. Exercises such as push-ups, squats, and lunges can be performed in the comfort of your own home and can be easily adapted to suit different fitness levels. 

calisthenics bodyweight workouts

For instance, push-ups can be done against a wall or on the knees for beginners, while more advanced individuals can try variations like decline push-ups for increased difficulty. Incorporating bodyweight exercises into your daily routine can help in building strength, improving cardiovascular health, and enhancing or maintaining your overall fitness.

Yoga and Stretching Routines

Yoga and stretching are excellent for improving flexibility, reducing stress, and promoting relaxation. With a plethora of online resources available, including free and subscription-based instructional videos, it's easier than ever to find a yoga or stretching routine that suits your needs and preferences. 

Regardless of whether you're looking for a gentle session to unwind before bed or a more vigorous flow to energize your morning, there's something for everyone. Regular practice can also help in reducing the risk of injury thanks to improvements in flexibility and balance.

Online Fitness Classes and Apps

The digital revolution has made it possible to bring the gym experience home with various online fitness classes and apps. These platforms offer a wide range of workout options, from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and pilates, to kickboxing and dance fitness. 

Many apps provide personalized workout plans, progress tracking, and the ability to connect with a community of like-minded individuals for motivation and support. Whether you have just 15 minutes to spare or can dedicate a full hour, you can find a class that fits your schedule and fitness level in the comfort of your home.

Creative Indoor Activities

Dance Parties

It’s important to realize that lifting weights or running is not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s why it’s important to have unique ways to stay fit as well. Turning up your favorite music and having a dance party, whether with family or solo, is not only a fun way to stay active but also an excellent stress reliever. 

couple having dance party at home

Dancing boosts cardiovascular health, improves balance and coordination, and can burn a significant amount of calories. You can follow online dance tutorials, join a virtual dance class, or simply freestyle to the music. The key is to keep moving and have fun with it.

Indoor Scavenger Hunts

While it may seem low intensity at first glance, it can become intense. An indoor scavenger hunt is a creative and enjoyable way to get the whole family moving. Creating a list of items to find around the house can turn into an exciting adventure that encourages walking, bending, and stretching as participants search for hidden treasures. This activity not only promotes physical activity but also fosters problem-solving and teamwork.

Household Chores as Exercise

There. We’ve said it. Maybe being snowed in is a good opportunity to catch up on some housework?

woman doing housework

While often overlooked, household chores can be a great form of physical activity. Activities such as vacuuming, mopping, and scrubbing not only keep your living space clean but also involve a fair amount of walking, bending, and lifting, providing a moderate workout. To increase the intensity, try setting a timer to complete your chores more quickly or incorporate lunges and squats when picking items up from the floor.

Outdoor Activities (When Safe) 

While it might seem crazy to do any sort of outdoor activity in the winter, the fact is that engaging in outdoor activities during the winter months can be a refreshing and invigorating way to stay active, provided you take necessary precautions to ensure safety and warmth. We are not recommending that you go outside in the middle of a snowstorm just for the sake of getting some activity in!

Snowshoeing/ Walking in the Snow

Snowshoeing is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that can help improve endurance and strength. It simply involves walking over snow with the aid of snowshoes, which distribute your weight over a larger area, preventing you from sinking deeply into the snow. 

This activity can burn more calories than walking at the same pace due to the added resistance of the snow. For those who prefer something simpler, walking in the snow, especially in fresh, deep snow, can also provide a significant workout, engaging the leg muscles more intensively than walking on a paved surface.

Building a Snowman or Snow Fort for a Full-Body Workout

Think building a snowman is child’s play? Then you’re sorely mistaken. Engaging in playful activities such as building a snowman or constructing a snow fort can be unexpectedly physically demanding. 

man building snow fort with son

These activities require bending, lifting, and carrying snow, offering a full-body workout that can be both fun and beneficial for your health. They are also excellent ways to encourage family participation and physical activity among children during the colder months.

Tips for Dressing Appropriately to Stay Warm and Safe

To safely engage in outdoor winter activities, it is essential to dress in multiple layers. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin, add an insulating layer to retain body heat, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against the elements. Don't forget to wear a hat, gloves, and waterproof boots to keep extremities warm and dry. Choosing clothing with reflective materials or adding reflective gear is also advisable, especially if you'll be out during early morning or after it gets dark.

Nutrition and Hydration

In the colder months, maintaining a balanced diet and staying hydrated are still as important as ever,  not only for sustaining energy levels but also for ensuring warmth and overall well-being. The body expends more energy in cold weather to keep warm, thereby increasing the need for nutrient-dense foods that can provide the necessary fuel and aid in maintaining the body's internal temperature.

What Should You Eat?

To combat the cold, incorporating foods that are high in healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates is crucial. Foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, whole grains, and lean meats can provide sustained energy and help in insulation. 

These nutrients play a vital role in metabolism, which in turn generates body heat. Additionally, warm meals like soups, stews, and herbal teas not only provide comfort but also aid in maintaining body warmth. Incorporating spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric can stimulate circulation and your metabolic rate, further contributing to a feeling of warmth. Moreover, ensuring that you're consuming enough calories to meet your body's increased energy requirements is essential for maintaining stamina and warmth during cold weather activities.

Importance of Staying Hydrated Even in Colder Weather

Hydration might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cold weather, but it is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. Cold air has a lower humidity level, which can lead to increased respiratory fluid loss through breathing. 

Furthermore, the body's thirst response is diminished in cold weather, leading to decreased fluid intake and potentially to dehydration. To counteract this, it's important to drink water regularly throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty. 

Carrying a thermos room temperature warm water or warm herbal tea can make staying hydrated more appealing. Additionally, eating water-rich foods like fruits and soups can also contribute to overall hydration.

Mental Wellness During Winter

The winter season can pose unique challenges to mental health, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to changes in seasons and lower exposure to sunlight. However, mindful practices, staying connected with others, and embracing the season can significantly bolster mental wellness during these colder months.

Mindful Practices to Combat Winter Blues

Engaging in mindful practices such as meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises can be exceptionally beneficial for mitigating stress and combating the winter blues.

These practices can help center your thoughts, calm the mind, and reduce anxiety, which is especially important during the darker, colder months when feelings of sadness or depression may be amplified. Setting aside time each day for these activities can establish a routine that helps maintain mental balance throughout the winter.

Staying Connected with Others, Even When Physically Isolated

The cold and often inclement weather can lead to physical isolation, which may exacerbate feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Making an effort to stay connected with friends and family through regular phone calls, video chats, and social media can help mitigate these feelings. When possible, arranging small, safe gatherings or outdoor activities can also provide a much-needed sense of community and support during the winter months.

Embracing the Season: Finding Beauty and Appreciation in Winter

While winter can present challenges, it also offers unique opportunities for beauty and joy. Embracing the season by finding activities that you enjoy can make the colder months more bearable and even enjoyable. Whether it's snowshoeing, skiing, building a snowman, or simply taking a walk to appreciate the quiet and beauty of a snowy landscape, finding ways to appreciate and connect with the environment during winter can have a profound positive impact on your wellbeing. Cultivating a mindset that focuses on the positive aspects of the season, rather than dwelling on the negatives, can help foster a sense of happiness and contentment during winter.

Safety Tips

Understanding Weather Advisories and When to Stay Indoors

Before heading outdoors, it's essential to check the weather forecast and heed any advisories. Severe weather conditions, such as blizzards, extreme cold, or ice storms, may warrant staying indoors. Understanding and respecting weather advisories can prevent unnecessary exposure to dangerous conditions.

Recognizing Signs of Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite and hypothermia are real risks when exercising outdoors in cold weather. Frostbite occurs when skin and other tissues freeze, typically affecting extremities like fingers, toes, ears, and the nose. 

Signs include numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation, followed by pale or hard skin. Hypothermia, on the other hand, occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerously low body temperature. 

Symptoms include shivering, slurred speech, confusion, and drowsiness. Recognizing these signs early and taking immediate action, such as seeking warmth and medical advice if necessary, is vital for safety.

Final Words

The good news is that winter doesnt last forever, and even if you live in a region with a tundra climate, there is scarcely an extended period of time that prevents you from going outdoors.

Adapting to the circumstances is a vital trait to get you through the days, and remaining optimistic that better days are coming your way.