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10 Tips for Exercising in the Cold (and Some Alternatives)


I don’t know about you, but I get excited when the weather gets cold. It’s my favorite time to exercise outside—I’d rather run in 30° weather than in 80° weather. Maybe you’re the opposite and think that cold weather equates to running on the “dreadmill.” So, here are 10 tips on how to make outside workouts in the cold doable—and even enjoyable!

Man wearing thick socks

Wear thick thermal socks or two pairs of socks.


  1. Dress for temperatures 15°–20° warmer than the temperature outside, and wear layers. Start with a synthetic layer, such as polyester or spandex, to wick away sweat. (Avoid cotton, which absorbs water and stays wet.) Then, add a layer of wool for insulation. Top with a breathable, waterproof layer.
  2. Wear thick thermal socks or two pairs of socks. (You’ll probably need to wear shoes a half size larger than normal.
  3. Wear a beanie or other head covering. In really cold weather, wear a scarf or mask over your nose and mouth to warm the air you’re breathing. Or wear a turtleneck and pull the neck up and over your mouth.
  4. Girl-drinking-water

    Drink plenty of fluids; even in the cold, you’ll still likely sweat and you’ll lose water through exhaling.

    Wear a thinner pair of gloves under heavier mittens. (Mittens keep fingers warmer than do gloves.)

  5. Cover exposed skin with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to help prevent frostbite and dry skin.
  6. Wear sunscreen and use lip balm with an SPF.
  7. If possible, exercise in the afternoon, when generally the temperature is highest and the light is greatest.
  8. If you exercise in the morning or evening, wear reflective clothing or a light so that you’re more visible.
  9. Drink plenty of fluids—even in the cold, you’ll still likely sweat and you’ll lose water through exhaling.
  10. Begin your workout heading into the wind, and finish with the wind at your back. (You’ll likely be sweaty toward the end, so you don’t want wind blowing at you and making you feel colder.)

Sometimes, even following these tips isn’t enough. For example, if it’s hailing or snowing heavily or if the wind chill factor is below minus 20°F, it’s not a good idea to exercise outside. But that doesn’t mean you should take a break from exercising altogether. Why not try a mix of the following indoor exercise ideas that are perfect for winter:

  • Lady with yoga matRock climbing (There’s likely a rock climbing gym close to where you live.)
  • Yoga classes (Check out private studios, local gyms, and community centers.)
  • Dance classes (Check out the options at private studios, community centers, and even some gyms.)
  • Workout DVDs (Start with the options available at your local library.)
  • Ice skating (Inside rinks aren’t just for the summer!)
  • Racket ball (Check local gyms and community centers.)
  • Swimming (Check local gyms, community centers, and nearby colleges.)

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