Embrace the chill: how to stay active when it’s cold outside

A group of female ramblers outside in the cold

It can be difficult to stay motivated when it’s cold, dark or wet. Raffaella Masselli, our Health Information Officer, shares why it’s so good for us to get moving and get outside – whatever the weather.

Raffaella MasselliRainy and cold days can make it hard to keep active, with staying indoors seeming more inviting when the weather is bad. But even though staying in may be appealing, the benefits of keeping active are worth overcoming any initial reluctance!

Keeping active offers many physical and mental benefits, from improving your fitness, strength and flexibility, to boosting energy levels, improving sleep, and helping to manage stress and anxiety. We also have strong evidence that keeping active can lower your risk of colon, breast and womb cancers. There are so many more health benefits of keeping active: you can learn about them in our free guide Living an Active Life.

Planning for success

Motivating yourself to keep active can sometimes be difficult and that’s completely normal. Some days you feel like being active, while other days, it’s the last thing on your mind – especially when it’s cold outside. To help you stay motivated it’s a good idea to set goals and create a routine to build healthy habits which can set you up for success.

Sometimes, if we don’t know why we are doing something, we just won’t stick to it. That’s where SMART goals come in. These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. For example, if you want to improve flexibility, you can set a goal to do simple stretches regularly, like before going to work. Doing this regularly gives you a better chance of achieving your goal of improving your flexibility, one day at a time.

Relying on motivation all the time isn’t enough either and that’s why creating a routine can help you achieve your goals, especially on days when you don’t feel motivated. Creating a routine can be planning when you’ll be active during the week and scheduling it in like a meeting, so you keep yourself accountable. Preparing your clothes or gym bag the night before can make you less likely to back out at the last minute. The more you regularly do something, the more it becomes a habit.

Tips for keeping motivated

I spoke to some of my World Cancer Research Fund colleagues to find out what motivates them to keep active when it’s grey and gloomy out. Here’s what they had to say.

Our Research Funding Officer, Becky Camenzuli, gives us a fantastic example of setting SMART goals. She says:

Becky CamenzuliHaving specific training goals to work towards keeps me motivated to get outside during the winter. Signing up to the London Landmarks Half Marathon and Hackney Half in the spring keeps me disciplined in my training! I have also joined a run club which has really helped me stick to my training plan during the dark and cold months. Committing to plans with friends gives me that extra push to get out of the house on the really cold mornings. It also provides a safer space, as I feel unsafe running alone in the dark in certain areas in London.

Do you want to set a personal goal and sign up to an event, just like Becky?

> Discover all our fundraising events.

Jennifer O’Mara, our Policy and Public Affairs Officer, says:

Jennifer OmaraBuddying up with my friend is my secret to staying motivated, especially during the winter, as we keep each other accountable!


Getting a friend to join you in keeping active is a great way to help you both stick to it. You can try out different activities together, like walking, running, cycling, a gym class, a dance class or playing a sport like badminton or table tennis. It’s a fun way to keep motivated and moving!

Our Events and Community Fundraiser, Marianne Kellner, says:

Marianne KellnerI tend to struggle a bit more in the winter when it comes to motivating myself – mainly because I hate stepping out in the cold! But I find that having a gym class booked in advance with my friend really helps. I always think about how great I feel after I exercise, and I never regret doing it – even if it’s pure relief it’s over!

I like trying new gym classes to make it a bit more exciting too – I’ve just started a new boxing class which I absolutely love and have not got bored of yet!

Tips to stay motivated

Explore new areas

When I don’t feel like going to the gym or running on a gloomy day, I enjoy taking walks and discovering new places around London. It’s a big city with rivers, city walks and amazing parks. This way, it doesn’t feel like I’m working out, but I still get lots of steps in.

> Find your nearest canal and river walk.

YouTube – my workout buddy

YouTube helps me stay active on days when I don’t feel like leaving the house or if it’s rainy outside. It has so many free workouts I can do right at home, with an online instructor guiding me through the workout while playing some fun music. Whatever activity you like, you’ll definitely find one there for you!

Here is a morning stretch routine for you to try, and you can also find a fun beginner Latin dance session to do at home, either by yourself or with a friend.

Dress right, rest right

It’s important to remember to dress appropriately for your workout and warm up just before, especially if you’re exercising outside. Shoes with good grip, warm clothes, gloves, a headband or beanie, and a scarf or snood can help you avoid getting too cold, sick or injured. And don’t forget to rest and recover, including stretching after.

Keeping active in winter may have its challenges, but setting SMART goals and creating a routine to build healthy habits can help you achieve your goals. Embrace the chill, stay active and watch it transform your overall well-being during the winter season and beyond!

Are you interested in building healthy habits? Sign up to Activ8, our free 8-week online behaviour change programme that can help you achieve your health goals, including being more active.

Sign up today

Cancer Prevention Action Week 2024

Our annual Cancer Prevention Action Week 2024 takes place on 19–25 February and is focused on physical activity and finding surprising, new and unexpected ways to be more active in your daily life. You’re invited to take part and whatever you do now, you’ll be doing more by the end.

Find out more