Five Tips for Staying Active this Winter

Staying active during the winter months can be difficult. Weather, packed holiday schedules, and fewer daylight hours can often get in the way of a regular fitness routine. For some cancer patients, lack of energy and a weakened immune system can also make it difficult to leave the house and stay active.

But staying in shape doesn’t always have to mean heading to the gym or a fitness class. There are many exercises that can be done at home and adjusted to fit any skill or strength level.

Nancy Campbell, MS, an exercise physiologist with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, provides tips for staying active this winter:

Try exercise videos

There are countless DVDs and videos featuring a wide range of workouts that can be done at home. Many of these videos can be rented at the public library or viewed for free using websites like YouTube. For anyone who is just starting a fitness routine, especially cancer patients, Campbell recommends “walking workout” videos that involve marching in place for varying distances or amounts of time.

Incorporate household items into a workout

Exercising doesn’t necessarily need to involve machines or weights at the gym. Try walking up and down stairs, or up and down just two stairs at a time. Push-ups are also an easy way to build strength and can be done on the knees or off of a wall or coffee table. For more strength training, Campbell suggests using soup cans in place of dumbbells.

Nancy Campbell, MS, leads weekly exercise classes for patients and survivors at Dana-Farber.
Nancy Campbell, MS, leads weekly exercise classes for patients and survivors at Dana-Farber.

Find a buddy

Sometimes it can be difficult to get motivated during the winter months. Campbell recommends finding an exercise buddy. Try going for walks together either outside or in a mall if it’s too cold. Your buddy can also be someone who checks in with you to make sure you’re sticking to a fitness routine.

Make “activity dates”

The winter months are often filled with meet-ups with friends and family who are visiting for the holidays or taking time off. Instead of meeting for dinner or drinks, Campbell recommends making “activity dates” like walking, hiking, snowshoeing, or trying a new yoga studio.

Monitor activity and set goals

Campbell encourages anyone who is starting a fitness routine to set goals and work slowly toward them. This could be a simple commitment to exercise three days a week, or a larger goal like a charity walk or 5K. To keep track of progress, Campbell recommends using a pedometer or fitness-tracking smartphone apps. Friends can also compare numbers in a friendly competition, which can help keep up motivation.

Learn more about exercise classes and consults for cancer patients and survivors through Dana-Farber’s Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living.