Better Me

Shake Off the Winter Slump: 12 Tips for Getting Back into Shape

As winter's frosty grip melts into the warmth of spring, many of us find ourselves trying to break free from the winter slump. But sometimes transitioning from winter inactivity to a more active lifestyle isn’t so easy. 

Even with the best intentions to keep up with your fitness routine, the cold weather and shorter days during the winter often lead to less working out and more time cuddled up watching Netflix.

If you’re ready to get back into the swing of things but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Emily Fanno, an associate athletic trainer with Banner – University Medicine, sheds light on this common struggle and offers 12 tips to ease your way back into shape again.

Understanding the winter slump

Winter is a time for cozy blankets, hot cocoa and bingeing shows and movies. It’s common for many of us to sink into almost a bear-like hibernation. 

But why does this winter slump affect so many of us? While it may seem like a matter of willpower (or lack thereof), there’s also a biological component at play. 

“When exposed to cold temperatures, our blood vessels constrict, limiting blood circulation to extremities such as hands and feet,” Fanno said. “Typically, people tend to seek warmth under a blanket and indulge in television during chilly moments.”

With each passing day, the sun also sets a little earlier, casting a shadow over our day and mood. The shorter days and less sunlight can leave you tired and unmotivated. It may even cause “the winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder for some people.

“Movement is medicine,” Fanno said. “Embracing exercise as a form of medicine is crucial for overall well-being. Allocate time for outdoor activities to not only benefit from physical activity but also to harness the advantages of sun exposSelf Loveure, fostering additional health benefits.”

Tips for a gradual return to fitness

To ease back into a fitness routine as the weather improves, Fanno recommends the following safe and effective strategies:

1. Just breathe: The average person breathes more than 23,000 times a day. Breathing comes naturally to most of us, but did you know a proper breathing technique can enhance your fitness journey?

“Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, can be helpful when getting back into shape because it boosts oxygen flow, reduces stress, improves posture and reactivates the mind-body connection,” Fanno said.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a simple technique. Check out our article on how to do it.

2. Walk as a foundation: “Most people don’t take advantage of the accessibility of walking and the benefits of this low-level impact activity,” Fanno said. “Your body will thank you for the fresh air and dose of Vitamin D.”

Walking outside can give you a boost after staying cooped up in your house all winter. Start with a 10-minute walk while you figure out the best time and place. Once you have a plan in place, add a few minutes per day. 

“Once you’ve established a daily walking habit, this creates a platform for your exercise program to expand,” Fanno said. “Take a manageable hike, play a sport, try slow flow yoga or use a workout app.

3. Don’t let time be an excuse: Set aside 30-45 minutes for physical activity three times a week. Even if your daily commute takes longer than usual and runs over into your workout time, use whatever time is left to be active—even if it’s only 15-20 minutes. 

“You may be stressed anyway from the longer commute, so why not take your frustration for a walk or perform bodyweight exercises?” Fanno said.

If you work from home, create a clutter-free workout space so you don’t let “stuff” get in the way of your fitness.

4. Set small, reasonable goals: “Just like our New Year’s resolutions, goal setting and planning gives us something to look forward to, motivates us to stay on track and provides a measurement of how well we are progressing,” Fanno said. 

Set small, realistic goals and focus on gradual progress rather than immediate results. Don’t change everything all at once. Focus on one thing at a time. Set a weekly goal of your activity minutes and check in with yourself. 

5. Warm-up and cool-down: Prioritize dynamic warm-up exercises before workouts to reduce the risk of injury and don’t forget to cool down to bring your body back to a steady state.

6. Incorporate rest days: “We are eager to rebuild a fitness routine and want to change quickly, but doing too much too quickly and not allowing our muscles to rest can lead to burnout, overuse injuries and decreased performance,” Fanno said.

Allow your body to rest between workouts. Rest can include laying low or an active recovery such as yoga, stretching, breaking out the foam roller or going for a family bike ride. When you feel sore, gentle movements can help increase blood flow and support recovery.

7. Focus on sleep: “Adequate sleep allows your body ample time to concentrate on the recovery process,” Fanno said. Being active can zap your energy, which means quality sleep is a must. Schedule an earlier bedtime when you feel tired instead of pushing yourself to work out and hurt yourself. 

8. Prioritize form over reps: Focus on proper form and technique rather than speed or number of repetitions to prevent injuries and build strength safely. 

“Go for time or muscle fatigue,” Fanno said. “Focus first on performing exercises at a slower, more controlled pace with longer rest periods.”

9. Find a support system: Join fitness challenges or enlist the support of friends and family to stay motivated and accountable. The family dog can also be your active partner and enjoy the fresh air just as much as you!

10. Fuel up properly: If your workouts make you dizzy or lightheaded, you may be dehydrated or not eating enough before your workout. Pay attention to nutrition and hydration, ensuring your body has what it needs to support your workout and recovery. Talk to your health care provider if your symptoms continue.

11. Be kind to yourself: Getting back into a workout routine isn’t easy. Even if you start slow and have a workout buddy, there may be days you give in to the couch. Don’t beat yourself up and throw in the towel.

“Transformation is not an immediate process,” Fanno said. “This notion resonates with us consistently throughout our lives.” Don’t give up. Don’t let missing one workout take the air out of your motivation. 

12. Ask for help: Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from professionals, such as athletic trainers, dietitians, your health care provider or a Banner Health specialist who can offer personalized advice and support tailored to your fitness goals and needs.


Getting back into shape after a long winter can feel overwhelming, but with the right approach it’s entirely achievable. Remember to set realistic goals, prioritize rest and recovery and fuel your body properly. Whether walking, doing yoga or hitting the gym, take it one step at a time. With patience and commitment, you’ll soon be back on track to a healthier, more active lifestyle.  

For more fitness-related tips, check out:

Fitness Heart Health Wellness