How to stay active in winter

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Staying active in the winter months is essential to our health.

I learned this the hard way in my first winter in Manitoba. I had so much to do when I arrived that I forgot about my health. There were countless orientations and seminars, on top of looking and applying for work. I had so much to think about and accomplish every day that I felt overwhelmed. To cope, I would eat junk food and take long naps in the early afternoon. I did not go out much because it was too cold. The result was increased lethargy and unhealthy weight gain in just a few weeks. My mood was always low and I became sickly.

Why do we need to stay active?

According to Manitoba Healthy Living and Seniors, physical activity increases energy levels, helps us handle stress better and strengthens the heart and lungs. Physical activities of moderate-intensity can lead to improved fitness, strength, and mental health. This helps us combat the stress of integrating and job-hunting in the first few months.

What’s more, exercising can help reduce the risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity.

How much physical activity do we need? For adults (18-64 years old), 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (in bouts of 10 minutes or more) per week is recommended. You can also add muscle and bone strengthening activities at least two days a week. The more physical activities you add to your regimen, the greater the health benefits (Manitoba Healthy Living and Seniors Physical Activity Guidelines).

Ways to be active in winter months

Coupled with a good diet, keeping active is the best way to stay healthy in any season. In winter, make sure that you are properly dressed, especially if you’re going outside. Layer your clothes to keep warm. Get good footwear that will protect your feet and keep you from slipping on ice. Read Winnipeg Health Region’s (WRHA) tips to help you stay warm while doing outdoor activities. Here are a few suggestions to help you start an active lifestyle in winter:

  1. Merge physical activity with your everyday life. Include small activities that will increase your heartbeat and move your muscles and bones. For example:
    • Walk instead of driving (when possible).
    • Bike (when possible).
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
    • Use standing work desks to reduce the amount of time sitting.
    • Shovelling snow is a great moderate physical activity. But take precautions if you have a heart problem. Read shovelling snow safely from WRHA.


  2. Involve your kids in winter activities. Just like you, they need physical exercise to stay healthy. You’ll be setting a good example for them when they see that you’re active. Consider enrolling in a mom and kid skating class, or take them with you when you go out for a walk. Ask them to help you shovel snow from your yard. Encourage them to play in the snow, get into snowball fights, or build snow people and snow forts. These are great bonding moments you’ll remember for a long time.
  3. Know what you want to do. Before investing in an expensive exercise machine, know what you like to do. A treadmill or stationary bike may be effective, but you can get bored with them after a while. Consult your doctor to know what type of exercise is ideal for you (especially if you have heart problems).

    There are plenty of videos online if you want to start exercising at home. A good example is the YouTube video “Yoga with Adrienne: Yoga for complete beginners – 20 minute home yoga workout”:

  4. If you need motivation from a coach, or if you exercise better with a group, join a gym or class at your local community centre. Another option is a community walking or running group. These activities are also great for networking.

  5. Set a regular schedule This will help make it a habit for you. A trick to make it more doable is to plan your activities a week at a time. During the weekend, get a calendar and map out your activities for the week. Try setting aside 30 minutes every morning for mild physical activity or yoga. If mornings are too busy, exercise in the afternoons. Don’t schedule exercise near bed time. It can make it hard for you to fall asleep.
  6. Make it an adventure. Learn a new sport. Try winter outdoor activities like skiing or tobogganing. Or go to winter festivals all over the province. For more ideas, read 150 things to do this winter in Manitoba. You’ll appreciate the beauty of Manitoba more when you explore the great outdoors. You’ll also get acclimatized to the cold.

Article updated October 17, 2023.

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Community Resources

Find out where you can be physically active in your neighborhood in three ways:

  1. Read the City of Winnipeg Leisure Guide. You can get free copies at all City of Winnipeg libraries, recreation and leisure centres, and indoor pools. Online, you can get it here: Leisure Guide.
  2. Go to the Community Centre nearest you to ask about programs available. You can also consult your neighborhood settlement worker.
  3. Go to Winnipeg in Motion to get information about the right kind of physical activities for your age. Also get tips, information about events, and other resources on the site.

Mosaic Newcomer Family Resource Network offers free skating lessons in winter. Check their website, call, or visit them and inquire about their schedules to register.

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