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Exercising in the Cold

The weather is cold, the days are shorter, and we are in the middle of a snowy Utah winter. With that said, are you in hibernation mode? Many of us tend to slow down a bit in the activity department as the colder weather limits our outdoor exercise options. However, there are several ways to stay active outside at this time of year.

Before you head out into the cold though, make sure you have the proper outdoor clothing and gear. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has these tips for safely and effectively dressing in inclement weather.

  • Dress in layers. Layers make it easy to remove clothing as you start to sweat, and then put back on as needed. If you wear clothing that you sweat in the damp clothing can cause you to be chilled.
  • Start with a base layer, something that can draw sweat away from your body such as polypropylene (avoid cotton).
  • Next add a mid-layer made of fleece or wool for insulation.
  • Lastly, top it off with an outer layer that is waterproof and breathable.

Don't forget to protect your hands, feet, and ears. Cold weather causes the blood flow in your body to be concentrated on supplying the core, which can leave your extremities vulnerable to frostbite. Wearing a pair of thin gloves under heavier gloves is recommended. Consider purchasing shoes that are a size larger than normal to allow room for thick socks. Also make sure shoes have proper traction especially if doing activities in the snow or ice. YakTracks are great additions to your exercise shoes that add extra traction.

Use reflective clothing. The daylight hours are shorter so make sure that you stay safe.

Now that you are properly dressed, what are you going to do outside? Check out these suggestions for ways to get moving outdoors!


If you enjoy hiking, snowshoeing is just like that, but in the snow! Most trails used for hiking can be used for snowshoeing in the winter - and snowshoeing burns more calories! Be sure to use established trails, and stay aware of avalanche conditions if snowshoeing in the backcountry.

Cross country skiing

This is a great way to get in your cardio AND strength training all in one workout. Cross country skiing involves all the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body. It also is a great way to clear your head and relieve stress.

Sledding/ Snow-tubing

Sledding may seem like a passive activity, but you burn a lot of calories dragging your sled up a hill. You also use your core muscles to keep your body upright and steer your sled. This is also a great way to get kids outside and moving without them feeling they are doing "exercise."

Ice Skating

Your leg muscles and core get a great workout when you are out on the ice. Skating can also help improve your balance and increase joint flexibility. You also will get a great cardio workout without having to move quickly.


Most people in Utah have skis on their feet from the time they learn to walk. It's probably why they are so sure on their feet. Skiing helps with something called proprioception - or the ability to feel the position of body parts and what it takes to move them. Skiing also helps improve balance, core strength, and flexibility. Oh, and it's a lot of fun!