5 Best Ways to Stay Active in the Winter If You Have Diabetes

Don’t let winter put a freeze on your exercise routine.

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Reviewed by Dietitian Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., RD

One of the things that can be a bummer about winter—aside from the messy slush-covered sidewalks—is that you may find yourself feeling stuck indoors and being less active than usual. It’s something so many of us can relate to. It’s just cozier to stay inside.

However, staying active—and even heading outside—in the winter can actually be fun. And, of course, it’s healthy too: If you have diabetes, physical activity is so important for helping you manage your blood sugar, says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, a registered dietitian and author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet. “Regular exercise improves insulin sensitivity, which allows cells to use insulin more effectively. Also, exercise enhances skeletal muscle glucose uptake, leading to better blood sugar control,” she says.

Related: 20 New Dinner Recipes You'll Want to Make This Winter

But if you have questions about how to make it happen despite the colder temps, we chatted with health experts who share their tips and tricks for getting more movement in your day (and enjoying it along the way).

5 Best Ways to Stay Active During Winter If You Have Diabetes

1. Take a Walk after Meals

A brisk post-meal walk can improve blood sugar control, according to a 2023 meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine, which found that walking for just 20 minutes after eating can help blunt the rise in blood sugar that occurs during digestion.

Because of these benefits, “Going for walks after meals is probably the absolute best choice you can make if you have diabetes,” says Rachel MacPherson, CPT, an ACE-certified personal trainer with Garage Gym Reviews. She recommends bundling up and taking a walk around your neighborhood after each meal (or as frequently as your schedule allows).

And if it’s too chilly outside, take your walk inside, suggests Palinski-Wade. “Indoor walking can be a great way to stay moving in the winter. If there isn’t an indoor track near you, try walking inside a shopping mall or department store. You can track your steps with a step counter, such as a pedometer.”

As an added bonus, your gut may feel better, too. A 2020 study in PLOS One found that walking stimulates the stomach and intestines to help food move quickly through the digestive system. Less bloating, too? Yes, please.

2. Enjoy Outdoor Winter Activities

Whether it’s hitting the slopes, a cross-country ski trail, ice skating or snowshoeing, outdoor activities can boost your fitness and keep you active while delivering a sense of adventure. “If you like sports, taking up a winter sport is a great way to build motivation and skills that will improve your mental, physical and social well-being while managing your blood sugar levels,” says MacPherson. “Skating, skiing—even building forts in the snow or sledding with your kids—are great ways to stay active,” she says.

3. Get Creative with Indoor Activities

Winter weather shouldn’t quash your chances of fitting in physical activity. Explore creative indoor activities that keep you active and warm, such as home workouts or dance sessions in your living room. There’s no shortage of ways to stay physically engaged without having to brave the cold.

“If walking outdoors is too challenging due to the weather or your fitness level, you can do indoor activities like yoga, dancing, walking on a treadmill, using a stationary bike or doing some body-weight or free-weight circuit training. Household chores like cleaning, vacuuming, organizing or shoveling snow all help [you] regulate blood sugar and stay active,” says MacPherson.

Related: 7-Day Treadmill Workout Plan to Lower Blood Sugar, Recommended by Certified Trainers

4. Find an Exercise Partner

Winter workouts can be significantly more enjoyable with a companion by your side—and having another person committed to being active can help hold you accountable, too. “To stay motivated, enlist an exercise buddy,” recommends Palinski-Wade. “Have a friend or family member exercise with you. You can walk together, take an exercise class, or motivate each other virtually to make movement a part of your daily routine.”

5. Join a Fitness Group or Class

Joining an exercise class is an undeniably effective way to keep your activity and spirits up all winter long. Research in Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology in 2019 has found that the collective energy of group exercise makes working out more engaging and enjoyable—and it can push you to work out harder, too. Look for classes such as dance, Pilates, yoga, pickleball, squash, step aerobics and cycling, suggests MacPherson. Even if you can’t find a local group, virtual fitness classes can help keep you active during the colder months, too.

The Bottom Line

Staying active in the winter is often easier said than done. While the urge to remain cozy inside is strong, staying sedentary over the winter can make it more challenging to manage your blood sugar if you have diabetes. Fortunately, there are simple, effective and enjoyable ways to stay active when it’s chilly out. Think walking after meals, engaging in outdoor winter activities, getting creative with indoor activities, finding an exercise partner and joining a fitness group. Ultimately, any activity you enjoy that gets you moving and keeps your blood sugar levels in check is excellent. As always, connect with your doctor first before starting any new exercise routine.

Read the original article on Eating Well.