20 Ways to Stay Active During Winter in Chicago

For most of us, it can be hard to stay active during winter. The bad weather drives us indoors, and all we want to do is try to stay warm seven days a week. However, regular physical activity, even during the winter months, is vital for your health. If you’re going to stay fit, your body needs regular exercise. If you’re wondering how to stay active during winter, you’ve come to the right place.  

Here at Chicago Athletic Clubs, we are dedicated to making your fitness journey successful. That’s why we’ve created this list of 20 ways to stay active during winter here in Chicago.

Reasons To Stay Active During Winter 

There are so many reasons to stay active in the winter months. The health benefits alone make moderate-intensity activities like walking or running a true no-brainer. Let’s look at some of the many reasons why it’s important to find ways to get up and move your body even in the cold weather season.

1. Boost Your Mood 

Have you ever noticed that it can be harder to keep a positive attitude when the days get shorter and the weather turns colder? If so, you’ve likely had to deal with some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

In their summary of this condition, the Mayo Clinic specifically highlights “increasing physical activity” as an option for treating it. Even if you do not have this condition specifically, physical activity is an excellent way to combat depression and anxiety.

exercises boosts mood


2. Maintain A Healthy Weight 

You may decide to stop exercising in the winter, but you won’t stop eating. Your weight directly correlates to your calorie intake to calorie burn ratio. To maintain your current weight, you would need to consume less food during the winter months when you are inactive.  

In reality, however, our bodies tend to want to consume more calories as a response to the colder temperatures and changes in weather. Plus, the holidays, with all the delicious food they bring, are rarely a time for dieting. 

The best strategy for maintaining a healthy weight is staying active regularly, even in the winter months. 

3. Strengthen Your Immune System 

Exercise increases the flow of your red and white blood cells throughout your body, thus boosting the circulation of your immune cells. This, in turn, strengthens your immune system. Having a robust immune system is critical when so many diseases like the flu or COVID-19 can wreak havoc with your best-laid holiday plans.

4. Fight Insulin Resistance 

Eating those gingerbread cookies may be fun, but if you are dealing with insulin resistance, it can become an even bigger challenge in winter. Fortunately, several studies have shown that increasing physical activity can reverse the effects of insulin resistance. Reducing body fat increases cellular insulin sensitivity and can help to fight insulin resistance.

exercise decreases insulin resistance

5. Gets You Summer-Bod Ready 

Winter’s not going to last forever. The last thing you want is for you to realize you’re going to need to do some exercising before you can put that swimsuit on again. Stay active and ensure that when the warmer weather comes, you’re ready to get out there and have fun with your friends.

Stay Active In The Gym 

To start our winter activities list, we will look at 10 things you can do in the gym or health club to keep your body moving.

1. Water Aerobics or Swimming Classes 

Water aerobics classes at an indoor pool can be a great way to stay active during winter as it provides a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints while also keeping the body warm.  


2. Cycling Classes

Cycling classes in the gym are a great winter-time activity and group classes can provide an energetic and motivating environment to help you keep up your fitness routine.

3. Strength Training Classes

Strength training classes are another smart way to remain physically active even when it gets cold because they help to build muscle, increase bone density, and improve overall physical fitness, even if it's just for 30 minutes a day.

4. HIIT Class

HIIT classes can be great for staying active in winter because they offer a high-intensity, full-body workout that can be completed in a short amount of time, making it easy to fit into a busy winter schedule. 

5. Cardio Classes or Equipment

The health benefits of taking cardio classes or using cardio equipment include improved cardiovascular health, increased metabolism, and improved mood and mental health.

6. Dance Fitness

Dance fitness is a type of group exercise that combines dance and aerobic movements to improve cardiovascular health, coordination, and overall fitness. It's a fun way to stay active during winter.

dance fitness group class

7. Yoga Classes

Yoga classes are a great way to stay active during winter, as they offer a low-impact workout that can help improve flexibility, balance, and physical and mental health. Yoga can also help reduce stress and anxiety, making it a great practice to incorporate into your winter wellness routine.

8. Pilates Classes

Pilates classes are a type of low-impact workout that focuses on strengthening and toning the body and improving posture, flexibility, and balance. Pilates can also help reduce stress and alleviate chronic pain, making it a great way to stay active during winter.

9. Personal Training

Personal training involves working with a certified fitness professional to design a customized workout program that addresses your personal fitness goals, needs, and limitations. The benefits of personal training include personalized attention, accountability, motivation, and faster progress toward your fitness goals.

personal training during winter

10. Boxing or Kickboxing

Boxing or kickboxing is a high-intensity workout that involves punching, kicking, and other martial arts moves. The benefits of boxing or kickboxing include improved cardiovascular health, increased muscle strength and endurance, improved coordination and balance, and stress relief.

Stay Active Anywhere 

Although the gym can be a great place to socialize as well as maintain your fitness levels in a climate-controlled environment, it is still possible to stay active outside the gym as well. Outdoor activities during daylight hours can still be done in many places as long as the colder temperatures do not fall to unsafe levels.

1. Ice Skating

The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millenium Park opens on November 17 and is a great way to socialize and get some exercise during the winter months. Just make sure to bundle up!

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

2. Running or Walking Through Chicago

There are many paths and trails in Chicago that provide excellent running or walking opportunities. Before it starts snowing, you should still be able to get out there a few more times. If you don’t mind the colder weather, go for it!

3. Snowball Fights

Snowball fights are an awesome way to stay active during the winter months while also providing a great workout. Throwing snowballs provides an engaging way to spend time with family and friends. Whether it's your neighborhood or one of the many park in Chicago, find an open space, make some snowballs, and have some fun. 

4. Sledding

Sledding is another popular winter activity in Chicago that offers a fun way to stay active during the colder months. It’s a low-impact workout that’s great for your cardiovascular health while also providing an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. One of the best places to go sledding is Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park in Winter

5. Geocaching

Geocaching is an adventurous activity that involves using GPS coordinates to locate hidden treasures in outdoor locations. It's a great way to get outside and explore new areas while also providing an opportunity to stay active and engage in a fun and challenging activity. Here's where you can find geocaching spots in the Chicago area. 

6. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a winter activity that can help improve cardiovascular health, endurance, and balance while also providing an opportunity to explore the great outdoors. It's a low-impact workout that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. With the plethora of parks in and near Chicago, there are plenty of places to go snowshoeing. 

7. Winter Bird Watching 

Winter bird watching is a great way to get outside and enjoy the natural beauty of the winter landscape while also providing an opportunity to observe a variety of bird species that are unique to the colder months.

It's a fun and educational activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. Earlier this year, Joanne Fessett, executive director of the Illinois Audubon Society provided her recommendations for the best winter birding spots in Chicago.

winter bird watching

8. Ice Fishing

Another activity you might not have considered is ice fishing. Ice fishing is a unique and exciting winter activity that involves fishing through a hole in the ice on a frozen body of water. It's a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter landscape while also providing an opportunity to stay active and engage in a challenging activity.

Ice fishing can provide several health benefits, such as strengthening muscles and reducing stress levels. It requires physical endurance, as anglers often have to hike across the ice to find the perfect spot. Additionally, cold temperatures can increase the body's metabolism and improve circulation, which can have positive effects on overall health.

Lake County is the best place to go ice fishing in Illinois. It's not quite "in Chicago," but it's just over an hour's driving distance. 

9. Outdoor Yoga

Outdoor yoga, practiced in natural environments such as parks or beaches, offers several benefits beyond the physical benefits of yoga. It can help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase feelings of vitality and well-being.

10. Winter Sports

Winter sports, such as skiing or snowboarding, are great ways to stay active during the colder months while also enjoying the beauty of winter landscapes. These activities can help improve your physical health, lower your weight, and improve your mood. 

woman snowboarding

Stay Active This Winter With Chicago Athletic Clubs 

Well, there you have it. 20 different ways to stay active in Chicago during the winter months. Although you could stay home and watch exercise videos, that’s not exactly the most enjoyable or exciting way to hit your fitness goals and maintain your body’s health.

Why not hit the gym? Chicago Health Clubs is a full-service club with a gym, indoor pool, and everything else you could want. Let us help you stay active this winter. Learn more here!