6 Ways to Stay Active This Winter That Don’t Require the Gym

By: Laura Whitney ’15, Campus Recreation Services, Group Fitness Instructor

Does your gym attendance drop along with the temperature? The combination of frigid temperatures, heavy end-of-semester workloads, and the jam-packed social calendar that comes with the holiday season can make getting to the gym at all, much less on a regular basis, seem like a formidable goal.

Unfortunately, many people seem to think of physical activity as an “all-or-nothing” pursuit—it’s either diligent, several-times-a-week gym attendance or complete and total sloth mode.

However, there’s actually quite a bit of middle ground between these two ends of the spectrum.

Ice skating is a great way to be active! (Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Jeremy Brooks)

Ice skating is a great way to be active! (Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Jeremy Brooks)


As a group fitness instructor, I’m obviously biased towards the “manage your workload so you can fit in gym time and bundle up to walk to the gym” approach.  However, I know this is unrealistic for a lot of people.

Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to stay active that don’t involve a gym!  Here are 6 of my favorite ways:

  1. End your day with a brief yoga session at home. Even 15-20 minutes can make a big difference. Not only does yoga improve your physical fitness, but it helps you decompress from the stresses of everyday life and have an easier time falling asleep.   There are tons of online yoga sessions of all skill sets on sites like YouTube, ranging in length from 10 minutes all the way to full hour-long classes. In a pinch, a bath towel makes a great impromptu yoga mat.
  2. Take walking breaks while doing your homework. A good ratio is 10 minutes of walking to 50 minutes of work, although you can obviously alter this to fit your needs.   If you don’t like the idea of walking around aimlessly, try going to a different floor or building to get coffee or use the bathroom. Just make sure to secure your belongings while you’re gone.
  3. Take the stairs! This is an oldie, but a goodie! Most people have to climb several flights of stairs a day, and skipping the elevator can really make a substantial impact on your physical fitness.
  4. Walk to your classes. If the weather isn’t too cold or if you’re bundled up sufficiently, skip Shuttle-UM and walk to your classes. With construction on campus, this is often the fastest route of travel for many students. If you live off-campus, consider biking to your classes.
  5. Choose weekend activities that involve movement. Try swing dancing, salsa dancing, bowling, laser tagging, and ice skating—to name just a few! Not only are there many affordable and close places to go out and be active, you’ll probably have way more fun than the same-old, same-old “hanging out” in your dorm or apartment with friends.
  6. Do your holiday shopping in person. I know how convenient online shopping is, especially in a pinch, but doing your shopping in person doubles as a workout! For many people, a solid session of holiday shopping can equal hours of walking.

Above all, avoid falling into the all-or-nothing mentality. 

If you haven’t been able to go to the gym for the past two weeks, don’t let that stop you from going to the gym today.

Every single time you choose to engage in physical activity, whether it’s walking, taking the stairs, or a scheduled gym session, you are nourishing your body and mind, and doing something great for yourself.  

Every bit counts!

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