by: Beth Anderson, RD, CDE

Tips for Exercising during the Cold Winter Months

In the colder months of winter, when the temperatures drop low, it’s easy to sit around inside and give up your exercise routine. However, with so many positive benefits of exercise, its good to have some options that allow you to get that workout in. We all know that exercise improves blood glucose control by making your cells take up glucose from the blood stream, and this benefit not only lasts while you are exercising, but as much as 24-72 hours after you exercise. Also, people who exercise regularly are less prone to weight gain, which can make us more insulin resistant. In addition, exercise has been shown to improve depression or winter blues that many people feel as the days get shorter and colder. Add to that the sunshine factor if you are exercising outside, which is one of our best ways of getting more Vitamin D. Vitamin D is involved in many body processes, but especially is needed in the absorption of Calcium for healthy bones and teeth.

Winter weather means taking special precaution if you are exercising outside. Some of the tips to keep in mind when exercising in the cold weather are:

  • Layer your clothing (Base, Mid and Outer)
    Base layer- should be a thin layer made of synthetic material that wicks moisture away from the body. Cotton is not as good as it does not wick the moisture away from the skin.
    Mid layer-fleece layer that is a little heavier to add warmth
    Outer layer- needs to be wind resistant, to protect from wind and wet days.
  • Protect your extremities, feet, hands, and ears. - Socks that wick moisture away are important since wet feet may lead to more friction and blisters or injury to the feet. A stocking cap to protect the ears and hold in heat, and thin gloves to protect the hands. A face mask may be needed to warm the air on really cold days.
  • Stay hydrated - Dehydration may affect your body’s ability to regulate heat. Staying hydrated in the cold is as important as staying hydrated in the heat.
  • Blood Glucose Testing - may be needed before and after the exercise, and you may need to keep a quick acting carbohydrate source to treat a low if your blood glucose gets low. Beware that low blood glucose can occur when exercising and you may be more susceptible to this if you take certain oral medications or are on insulin.
  • Wear Shoes with good traction - and remember on icy days, it may be best to do your exercising inside to minimize falls that may keep you from continuing your exercise regime.

If it is entirely too cold to exercise outside, you might try finding a mall where you can walk, or a pool where you can swim, or maybe just exercise in your own home with a some exercise bands, soup cans for weights, and a stay ball for strength training. There are so many good exercise choices, so whether you are exercising inside, or out, you are taking a step in the right direction in keeping your blood glucose and weight under control year round, and that is what it’s all about!


  1. Reddan, P., (2012). Cold Weather Exercise.Retrieved 2/17/2012 from 
  2. Stoltz, C. (2007). Cold Weather Exercise for People with Diabetes 2/17/2012 from 
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff, (2011). Exercise and cold weather: Tips to stay safe outdoors. Retrieved 2/17/2012 from