by Emily Paulsen

A woman does a plank.

Staying active during the winter by incorporating indoor workouts can improve strength and help with focus, anxiety and sleep.

When it's cold outside, it can be tempting to just curl up and hibernate, but winter weather doesn't mean you have to give up your exercise routine. You just need to bring it indoors. Indoor workouts can fill the gap, and many don't require extra equipment.

Regular exercise has many benefits, including increased focus, reduced anxiety and better sleep. It can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Exercise also supports stronger bones and muscles, which can reduce aches and pains and help you stay active as you age.

There are benefits of exercise that go beyond the physical, too. Regular exercise can help prevent or reduce depression, especially depression associated with seasonal affective disorder, which is more common in the winter months. Regular exercise may also help to prevent cognitive decline in a person's later years.

Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week — such as walking or yoga — or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running or calisthenics. Add in some muscle-strengthening exercises at least two times a week. If you can get to 300 minutes of exercise per week, that's even better. As with any new exercise routine, talk to your doctor before starting indoor workouts, especially if you have not been exercising lately.

Once you're ready to start developing your exercise routine, you'll want to identify some ways to stay active when the weather gets colder. Here are some suggestions.

Stream free workout videos

The number of free exercise videos available online grew exponentially during the pandemic. The American Heart Association has a variety of free videos available for streaming. These videos include yoga, chair exercises, workout routines and more. The AARP also has a library of exercise videos for people over 50. These include short workouts to increase balance and muscle strength and manage stress. If you subscribe to a streaming service, you may also have a variety of workout videos included in your package.

Use your body weight

You don't need equipment to get a good workout. Bent-knee pushups, squats and cat-cow stretches all require no equipment and can help you build muscle and stay limber, even in the winter. Pilates exercises don't require any equipment either. You can even play some music and dance for 10 or 15 minutes. All movement counts!

Make use of low-cost equipment

Resistance bands, exercise balls and other low-cost exercise equipment can help make workouts fun and effective. If you don't have weights handy, a couple of 12- or 16-ounce cans can be a good substitute. Just hold one can in each hand as you bend your arms to perform curls.

Stretch and build strength

Yes, it's important to get your heart rate up, but taking time to stretch and build muscles can also benefit your health. For example, a recent study showed that women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer had less fatigue, fewer side effects and better overall physical and mental well-being with regular strength-building exercises.

Stand up from your chair

Sitting in a chair all day can increase obesity, diabetes and heart disease risk. You can easily combat these risks by interrupting long periods in your chair with some activity. Do a little dance, grab some weights, stand up and massage your foot with a tennis ball, or do a couple of laps around the room as you grab a glass of water. The American Diabetes Association has more suggestions on how to take breaks from sitting down.

Indulge in video games

Yes, you read that right. Of course, this does not refer to passive video games that you play sitting down. Active video games, sometimes called exergames, require physical activity that raises your heart rate or builds muscle. A recent study found that kids who play these games gained muscle mass and attained healthier weights.

Take a hike indoors

You don't need a big space to walk at home. Turn on the TV maybe even a nature show to simulate an outdoor hike and walk in place or around the room as you watch. Just 20 minutes a day can make a big difference and contribute to your goal of 150 minutes of activity each week. Vary your gait by lifting your knees high or tapping your heels out to the side. Knee lifts can help build your leg muscles, which can improve balance and coordination. You can also alternate between fast and slow walking to simulate interval training.

Mix it up with these exercise suggestions. Variety is the spice of life and it can make exercise more effective and sustainable as you work different parts of the body.

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