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Monday, February 6, 2023

Winter fitness: Tips for exercising outdoors

URI fitness expert shares advice for those who want to benefit from taking their workouts outside

It’s easy to switch to hibernation mode when it comes to exercising outdoors in the colder months. 

But, while gyms and other indoor options are available, connecting with nature and embracing the outside environment could be a better alternative. 

Research has shown that spending time outdoors is associated with good health, improved mood and overall well-being.

“Engaging with the natural world around you allows you to disconnect somewhat, and simply breathe,” says Deborah Riebe, exercise science expert and interim dean of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Health Sciences. She encourages you to try moving your workout outdoors, and offered these helpful tips:

  • Dress appropriately
  • Dress in layers that can be taken off or added to, allowing you to be comfortable while balancing rising body temperatures with cold air temperatures during your workout.
  • Wearing a scarf or ski mask over your mouth and nose and breathing through your nose helps to warm and humidify the air you breathe more efficiently, which may make breathing very cold air more comfortable. Your lungs won’t freeze without a scarf or mask, but the cold could irritate your airways.
  • Slipping and falling in rainy, snowy or icy conditions could come down to your footwear, so minimize your risk by choosing appropriately.

Expand your options

Mix it up a little. Depending on where you live, winter may afford you the opportunity to expand your typical workouts and try seasonal options, including skiing, snowshoeing, skating and sledding. These options, and others, are excellent options for getting your heart rate up while having fun outside—by yourself or with friends and family.


The days are shorter in the winter so try to schedule your outdoor workouts for when it’s light out, steering clear of low-visibility situations. Working out in the morning, if possible, is also a good way to help sustain a regular workout routine.


Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to exposed skin. It may be cold outside, but the UV rays from the sun can still cause sunburn.

Deborah Riebe, Ph.D., is interim dean of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Health Sciences. She is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and of the National Academy of Kinesiology. Riebe served as the senior editor of the ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, an industry handbook that sets scientifically based standards on exercise testing and prescription in healthy and diseased patients.