Winter Exercise Ideas

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Winter Exercise Ideas

I won’t say I hate winter, but it’s my least-favorite time of the year. Yet I started to mind the season much less once I took up cross-country skiing. Give the following activities a try, and you may also find yourself warming up to winter, too.

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Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that works the entire body, including the core, and allows you to enjoy the beauty and quiet of nature. While there are groomed ski trails specifically for cross-country skiers, you can cross-country ski virtually anywhere there’s enough snow.


Flat and wide, snowshoes are designed to spread your weight over the snow so that you don’t sink in, which makes them very handy for getting across expanses of deep snow. Snowshoeing is easier to learn than cross-country skiing, and snowshoes are generally inexpensive and lightweight. And snowshoeing is safer and easier on rugged terrain and deep snow than cross-country skiing is.


When hiking in the winter, the best footwear starts with waterproof hiking boots. If you’ll be walking or hiking on ice or snow, it’s a good idea to have additional footgear to prevent slipping. Microspikes are devices that slip around boots and have small spikes at the bottom to provide traction. Crampons are devices with bigger spikes to really dig into the ice, making them especially useful for scaling icy slopes.

Cold-weather workout clothing

Proper clothing is essential for staying warm and dry. A hat, moisture-wicking gloves and moisture-wicking socks are best, but people with diabetes should avoid electric foot warmers, which could burn their feet without their even knowing it. In general, it’s a good idea to dress in layers. The innermost layer should be moisture-wicking thermal underwear. On the upper body, the next layer could be a fleece, followed by a water-proof winter coat. On the lower body, the outer layer could be ski pants or other water-proof pants.

Tips for staying safe

• Start small. If you’re new to winter activity, you may underestimate the effort involved.

• Start early. Make hay while the sun is shining! It’s no fun getting stuck out in the cold after dark.

• Carry — and drink — plenty of water. Even if you don’t notice you’re thirsty, you could become dehydrated, which increases your risk of hypothermia.

• Bring plenty of food. The ideal food would be small snacks you can munch on without stopping your activity.

• Carry or wear a medical ID or medical alert jewelry that identifies you as someone with diabetes.

• Be sure to check your blood glucose levels before, during and after your workout and bring hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) treatment, such as glucose tabs, along for the trip.

Making the most of winter

So what are you waiting for? Pick an activity that sounds like fun, get the OK from your doctor, and get started. There’s a whole winter wonderland to enjoy!

Want to learn more about managing diabetes during the winter months? Read “Strengthening Your Immune System for a Healthy Winter” and “Wintertime High Blood Sugars: Causes and Solutions.”

Robert S. Dinsmoor

Robert S. Dinsmoor

Robert S. Dinsmoor on social media

A contributing editor at Diabetes Self-Management, Dinsmoor is an award-winning medical journalist who has written hundreds of articles on health and medicine, including dozens related to diabetes.

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