Staying fit during the cold winter months is vital to a person’s year-round health. While exercising may become more difficult for those who live in frigid temperatures, eating well and staying mentally healthy can be challenging as well. Here’s what you need to know to stay fit—both physically and mentally.


Set healthy boundaries. The holidays can involve endless work, family and social obligations that can become overwhelming, says Angie Cerniglia, associate marriage and family therapist with New Leaf Resources. “Overcommitting yourself can lead to feeling anxious and stressed,” she says. “Set healthy boundaries on what you can and cannot do, and stick to them.”

While others may not understand, taking care of oneself is important and you shouldn’t let guilt dictate your holiday, Cerniglia says. It’s OK to not be OK. The holidays can be a very painful time for people, and with that, there is pressure to put on a smile and pretend everything is fine when, in fact, it’s not.

Cerniglia says if the holidays are difficult, do not hesitate to seek help and support from a friend, family member or professional counselor.

Don’t put self care on hold. Don’t stop doing the things that make you happy, Cerniglia says. “Whether it’s taking walks, reading a book, doing yoga or meeting with your counselor, keeping up on self-care will make for a more relaxed holiday season,” she says.

Have fun. In the busyness of the holidays, make time for activities you enjoy doing, even if it means saying no to something else, Cerniglia says. “This will lead to more feelings of enjoyment over the holiday season rather than frustration,” she says.

Get a Luxx lamp. Dr. Michael Ward, a family and sports medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital, says Luxx lamps can be useful as well because they emit light wavelengths that can help prevent seasonal affective disorder. If left untreated, the disorder can lead to more serious forms of depression in the winter months.


Hit the gym or rec center. Exercises that can be accomplished indoors include jogging, dancing, swimming, racquetball and basketball, Ward suggests. Stationary equipment, such as bikes, treadmills or elliptical machines, can be found at local gyms or can be purchased for your home.

“You can also purchase a Mag Trainer, which is an inexpensive piece of exercise equipment that allows people to turn outdoor bikes into an indoor stationary bike,” he says.

Take group classes. Classes found at local centers or through private trainers, such as aqua therapy, yoga, tai-chi or martial arts, also can be fun, Ward says. “All of these exercises release endogenous endorphins, which improve our mood and can help stave off depression.”

Take advantage of the season. Kelly Devine Rickert, a registered dietitian and Franciscan Wellcare health coach, says the holidays are the perfect time to enjoy the scenery. “The best way to not gain weight during the holidays is to burn off the extra calories,” she says. “Take a walk around the neighborhood to admire the Christmas lights.” Raking leaves during the fall for 20 minutes also burns off 100 calories, she says.

Have a busy season? Look for short periods of time, at least 10 minutes, during the day in which you can do physical activity, such as push-ups, sit-ups, planks, jumping jacks or stairs, Rickert says.


Pack and plan meals. Planning ahead will prevent you from grabbing unhealthy items while on the go this holiday season, and that goes for snacks as well, Rickert says.

“The best on-the-go snacks combine a carbohydrate high in fiber and a protein low in fat, such as an apple and string cheese, hummus and wheat crackers, and celery and peanut butter,” she says.

Drink water. Drink 16 ounces of water and have a light snack about one to three hours before heading to a holiday party to help curb hunger, Rickert says. “Limit alcoholic beverages at parties,” she adds. “The more you drink, the more you will eat.”

Offer healthy recipes. When attending a party, offer to bring a healthy dish. “Most recipes can be made healthier by making small substitutions, and family and friends won’t taste the difference,” Rickert says.