If you got a step-counting watch or a fancy new pedometer for the holidays, the frigid weather of January and February can be an extra bummer: Every hour, your new gadget buzzes to remind you to get up and meet your hourly steps goals. But it’s so cold outside!
You don’t have to pile on 10,000 layers to go out and reach your steps goals. With a little creativity, you can get moving all winter without turning into an icicle.
Here are seven ways to meet your steps goals while you wait for spring:
Mall walking sounds like a throwback exercise, but it’s actually increased in popularity since the ‘90s: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malls are the second-most popular place to take a walk, after your own neighborhood. If you’re worried you’ll spend too much, borrow a trick from America’s most experienced mall walkers: Go early, before most of the stores have opened. You’ll also gain another benefit—in studies of mall walking, participants said that unlike at the gym, they didn’t feel pressure about their speed, attire or physique. If you’re there before the stores open, there’s no one to compete with but yourself!
Most step counters will register jump roping as steps, and it’s an incredible way to get fit in just a few minutes per day. In fact, scientists say that 10 minutes of jumping rope is the equivalent of running an eight-minute mile.
You don’t have to jump for 10 minutes in a row, and if you’re worried about tripping, you can start without actually jumping over the rope: Instead, put both handles of the rope in one hand, and swing the rope to the side of your body as you jump. This will help you get the rhythm of jumping down before progressing to actually jumping over the rope. Try going for 20 seconds at a time, rest for 10-20 seconds, and repeat.
Go retro with your activity: Fire up YouTube for a classic workout video that won’t just make you sweat, but will make you smile. Most of the infomercial and as-seen-on-TV workout tapes of the 1980s have been uploaded to the site, and they’re free to watch and play along. Whether it’s dance karate, something that goes for just eight minutes, or your favorite old-school celebrity’s tape, you can find one that lets you laugh along with the dated fashions while you do a workout that fits your fitness level—and will be counted on your watch.
If you sit at your desk and stay there all day, your health may be at risk: A study from the American Cancer Society found that women who sat for six hours per day were 37 percent more likely to die during the study than those who sat for three hours or fewer. So instead of emailing to set up a lunch meeting or to ask a quick question, get up! Walk to your coworker’s desk to discuss that new idea or to hash out details of tomorrow’s meeting. While you’re up, take a walk to a water cooler that’s further than your normal one before returning to your desk. You won’t just get steps, you may find you’re more creative: Scientists who studied walking and problem solving found that those who walked gave more creative answers than those who were seated.
Your gym or community center might have a treadmill, but you might think it’s torture: And actually, you might be right! Treadmills were invented in the 19th century for prisons to punish defiant inmates, according to one online source. But you’re not in chains, so the mill doesn’t have to mean suffering, and it doesn’t have to be boring: Treadmill gamers combine treadmill walking with mobile video games to break up the monotony. One member of an online forum about the activity lost 70 pounds doing the activity.
Start with a game that’s not too packed with action—if the game moves too much, you might “drift” off the mill. (Puzzles are usually a good bet.) And if you’re not into games, turn watching TV into a game of its own: When the show is on, walk a little faster than normal. During the commercials, slow it down. Mixing up your speeds like this can help you burn more calories while you reach your steps goals: In a study conducted by Ohio State University, research found that by walking in sped-up bursts of just five inches more per second, exercisers burned 20 percent more calories than those going at a steady pace.
Act like a tourist in your own town! Lots of us don’t take the time to check out museums that are right under our noses, and they’re a great (and warm) excuse to get more steps. If you don’t want to shell out full admissions fees, many local museums offer free or discounted days on entrance. And your bank may offer perks as well: Several national banks partner with museums for discounted admission when using your debit card. Get cultured, educated and fit—all without freezing!
Whether it’s date night, hanging with friends or filling the car with kids and going, getting out of the house will help keep you from going stir-crazy in these frigid days (and get in those steps goals). So instead of just lunch, dinner or a movie, pick something indoors and active! Go bowling with your best friend, take your husband to an ice-skating rink or take the kids to the most fun they—or you—will ever have breaking a sweat: An indoor trampoline park. These places are popping up all over the country, and with good reason—they are ridiculously fun. Coupons often pop up online, so you can go bounce your way to 10,000 steps at a discount.