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. 

11 thoughts on “Five Tips for Staying Active this Winter”

  1. Having a scheduled class helps motivate me to get out of the house instead of staying in bed. Once I’m there, it’s easy!
    The exercise helps me be as strong as possible, which helps me bounce back from chemo. Having the best quality of life while living with cancer us a strong motivator.

  2. The motivation for exercising in the winter is for me, definitely about having a group to go work out with. In the warmer weather, I find it’s so much easier to just put on my sneakers and go for a walk. Cold weather is much more difficult to overcome. The thing that gets me moving is a class I take with Nancy Campbell twice a week at the Bodyscapes gym. I get up and go because I know I’m going to love the class, and feel better afterwards. And I’ll be glad to see the friends I’ve made, who are also cancer survivors and trying to get stronger and healthier. So it’s having commitment to that group that keeps me coming back. Recently I’ve begun participating in another group, which is a Hatha Yoga class at the Dana Farber Yawkey Center. I’ve never done yoga before, but this class is fabulous, and I’ll keep going back. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to participate in these classes. It’s making a huge change in my fitness, my health, and my life.

  3. Why do I exercise? There are many days when I awake and think do I really want to put on all those clothes and get myself to the gym? And the answer is invariably yes…I love the teachers and the comraderie of the class. The sequence and repetition of exercises from warmups to cool downs always makes me feel good. And the special individual attention given to each of us during the class makes it all possible. And the music is great. There were many things I could not control during treatments but this I can keep healthy so I go and always feel better after! I recently participated in a Brain Tumor walk and surprised myself by doing three miles…thanks to exercising! Thank you Nancy Campbell, DFCI and Bodyscapes!

  4. I’ve found sticking with an exercise routine to be very tough. Fatigue and pain often convince me that I’m better off sitting… BUT when I do exercise regularly my pain and fatigue gets so much better. So even though I know that I feel so much better when I exercise, sometimes I struggle to get myself going. I have to remind myself that the exercise makes a big difference in my symptoms and rely on some external accountability. I am so grateful to Nancy Campbell, who has encouraged me to join in DFCI sponsored strengthening classes, and to my sports clubs for cancer survivors (Wellness Warriors and WeCanRow Boston) for helping me get off the couch and feel better. I’ve used all of Nancy’s suggestions above (wii fit at home, fitbit pedometer, classes, friendly competitions). They all work to stay active through my chronic pain issues. Every single time I abandon my workout regimen I have worsening pain. You’d think knowing that would be enough to keep me motivated but the reality is that I need more. Thank you to Nancy for helping me stay on track to feeling better.

Comments are closed.