8 Ideas For Staying Active In College: Winter COVID Edition

Anyone who says being active is easy has never, ever been a Minnesota college student.

Get exercise multiple times a week, the experts recommend. Try outdoor activities, all of your favorite influencers hype. 

But have any of these people ever actually lived in Minnesota?

Aka, land of 10,000 lakes that are too cold and snowy to jog around for most of the year???

Where the weather can be too treacherous to walk, drive, or bike anywhere for days on end?

(Can you tell I have THOUGHTS on this subject?)

Anyways, it’s tough to stay active as a college student with a busy and ever-changing schedule.

It’s tough to stay active in the winter, when the weather prevents us from going outdoors safely.

It’s tough to stay active during COVID-19, when we’re feeling pressured to stay home and our favorite workout places are closed.  

In this blog post, I’m giving you my best tips to get your body moving in the midst of this crazy situation.

(Notice, I didn’t say ‘unprecedented times’. You’re welcome.)

  1. Give yourself permission to move your body because you want to, without feeling guilt or shame. 
  2. Staying active does not need to mean doing a ‘workout’
  3. Prioritize movement that makes you feel GOOD
  4. Allow yourself to rest when you need
  5. Get up and stretch frequently
  6. Give winter activities a try
  7. Try walking indoors
  8. Get (a little bit of) sunshine

1. Give yourself permission to move because you WANT to, without feeling guilt or shame. 

If you are anything like me, you know that sometimes it can be hard to motivate yourself to get moving. 

But that doesn’t mean that we need to feel guilty or ashamed if we choose not to do a workout on a particular day. 

My biggest tip is to give yourself permission to move your body because you want to, when you want to. 

No shame needed!

2. Staying active does not need to mean doing a ‘workout’

Vacuuming or mopping is movement. 

Shoveling snow is movement.

Goofing around with small children or animals is movement. 

Cooking dinner is movement. 

Need I say more? 

It’s okay to move your body in practical ways, without the formality of a workout. 

3. Prioritize what makes you feel GOOD

It’s okay to prioritize the movement that you love, rather than what you’re ‘supposed to’ do. . 

If it’s leg day and you’d much rather do yoga, DO YOGA!

If it’s a cardio day and you are dreading having to bundle up for a run, choose a different activity to get your heart pumping. 

In my mind, there is no reason to do any exercise that you dread. 

Be patient with yourself. If your body is telling you that crossfit won’t make it feel good today, listen to your body and choose a different activity, or….

4. Allow yourself to rest

It is okay to choose rest over activity. 

Our bodies need rest. 

Even when we are at home all of the time, not doing a whole lot of anything, we still get tired. 

We still have difficult physical and mental health days, days where we’re exhausted, sore, or drained. 

And when that happens, it is okay to allow ourselves to rest. 

We do not need to be ‘productive’ all of the time. 

5. Move around the house

I’ve noticed that my ‘step count’ has gone WAY down since the pandemic began, and it has dropped further now that the weather is cold. 

I used to walk all over my campus and walk around parks or stores, and I’m not doing much of that right now. 

But that doesn’t mean that I need to be glued to my chair for 8 hours a day. 

I set a timer every hour to remind myself to stretch! I get up, refill my water bottle, grab a snack or meal, or use that time to transition to a new task. 

Take a lap around your apartment, house, or dorm (including the stairs!). 

6. Give winter activities a try

If you have access to warm winter clothes and appropriate equipment, there are SO MANY cool winter outdoor activities out there. 

Hiking! Cross country skiing! Sledding! Ice skating! Snowball fights!

Get out and get chilly! 

7. Walk around INDOORS

If you have access to larger indoor spaces and feel comfortable doing so, try going for a walk indoors. 

If you’re on campus at your university, try going to walk around the different hallways in your dorm or class buildings. 

If you work in a larger retail or office building, take a lap or two around during your break time.

In the twin cities, we have both IKEA and the Mall of America, as well as several other larger indoor shopping centers that have plenty of mileage for when I’m feeling antsy and want to move.

8. Get (a little bit of) sunshine 

I try to go outside everyday, when the weather is safe. 

Even if I just stand on the porch for a few minutes, or walk around the block, I find that I feel better when I’ve gotten even a little bit of fresh air and sunshine. 

Go outside everyday. Doesn’t have to be for a long time. Just go outside and breathe real air. 

Final Thoughts 

Obviously, it is INCREDIBLY frustrating that there are some types of physical activity that are not available or practical right now. 

Gymnastics, weight lifting, machine workouts, swimming, team sports, and more. Depending on where you live, gyms or fitness centers may not be open and available. 

It is okay to be frustrated about this. To be angry. To be confused. To grieve. 

I want to validate you if you are feeling as though this thing that you love has been taken away from you indefinitely. These are hard feelings to have. 

No matter what though, if you can, it feels SO good to move your body. 

Staying active benefits just about every aspect of our health, and there are so many different ways to do it!

I encourage you to find something you love, and do it!

Minnesota-based grad student, future RD, educator, content creator, and mac and cheese expert! Natalie is currently a Masters of Public Health student and dietetic intern at the University of Minnesota, and is on-track to becoming a registered dietitian-nutritionist. She earned her bachelor's degree in Dietetics in 2019 from St. Catherine University.

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