How to beat rainy days and get more steps indoors and outdoors

Walking on a rainy day can actually be fun, both indoors and outdoors, with the right gear and some planning. Don’t let a little rain get in the way of your daily walking habit. And as temperatures warm up and spring showers arrive, you can still get your 30 minutes of daily walking and even hit 10,000 steps. While many people enjoy walking in the rain, it’s not for everyone. Having a go-to indoor walking backup is essential to hit your step goal in the spring or any time it’s wet outside.

Don’t give up on your walking routine when the rain starts falling! Here’s how to make walking outside in the rain safe and fun, the gear you’ll need, plus indoor walking for when the rain becomes too much.

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Walking Outdoors On Rainy Days

Couple with rain gear walking in rain
Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock

Often when the clouds turn gray, and the raindrops start falling, fitness walkers decide to take a day off unless they have access to a perfect indoor walking location. But if you prepare ahead of time, your walks do not need to be slowed down by bad weather. Walking outside in (light) rain can actually be a fun experience. It’s not for everyone – especially if you have an injury or a health condition, but here’s how to make the best of it.

Important Rain Gear for Walkers

  • A Good Rain Jacket: A good, waterproof rain jacket with a hood will keep you dry when it’s raining outside. It’s important to keep your core dry and warm, and even if you do take an umbrella your jacket is an important backup. A light windbreaker, or a jacket with a removable liner, can help you layer up during warmer rainy days.
  • An Umbrella (unless you’re feeling adventurous): Even if you’re walking with a jacket, a good umbrella will keep the rain off the rest of you. If you’re feeling adventurous (or not walking far from home), you might ditch the umbrella and bear the rain. Just be careful that the wetter you get, the colder you’ll get so be careful to avoid getting soaked.
  • Waterproof Walking Shoes or Boots: Wet feet are not fun to walk on, and getting water in your shoes will make it hard to finish your walk. Waterproof shoes will help prevent soggy feet, which can cause foot blisters from the extra friction. If you want to feel extra dry, add in some rain pants as well.
    Waterproof Pouch for Your Phone: You’ll need your phone on you to ensure your steps get counted, and it’s a good idea to take it with you in case of an emergency as well. A simple plastic sandwich bag can keep your phone dry, or you can opt for a specialized waterproof walking pouch.
  • Waterproof Headlamp or Reflective Gear: Cars driving in heavy rain may have a hard time seeing you. Wearing a headlamp can help the cars notice you if you are walking in areas with car traffic. You can also look into reflective walking gear (usually used for night walking) that can help keep you visible.

Why Walk in the Rain:

Woman walking in the rain and talking on phone
bbernard / Shutterstock
  • May Burn More Calories: A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine showed that physical activity in rainy, cold weather may burn more calories and fat than doing the same workout in a moderate climate. Other studies have shown similar findings in cold weather as well. While some findings may be disputed, it certainly doesn’t burn fewer calories!
  • Cleaner Walking Air: An MIT study looking into air pollutants has found that breathing in rainy air is actually better for your health. This makes walking during or after a light rain good for people who live in areas with high air pollution. The research from the study found that air is cleaner during and after rainfall because as the raindrops fall through the atmosphere, they attract particles of dander, sulfates, and even bacteria before hitting the ground. Some studies have shown that very heavy rain can increase pollen levels, but you probably wouldn’t be walking in such heavy rain in any event.
  • You Can Do So Safely: Walking in rainy weather won’t give you a cold on its own – you need to be exposed to cold or flu viruses for that. Getting wet can lower your body temperature, which can make you more likely to catch a cold if you are exposed, however. Exercise is a great way to reduce your risk of getting a cold in any case, and with proper rain gear and precautions you can do so safely!

Risks of Walking in the Rain

Sad man getting soaked walking in the rain
Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock
  • Slips and Falls: The obvious risk of wet-weather walking is slipping and falling. Walking on slippery surfaces like grass or leaves or less grippy surfaces increases your risk of turning an ankle or falling down.
  • Reduced Visibility: Rain makes it harder for drivers to see you, which can be dangerous on busy roads. You may also miss obstacles, holes in the pavement, or other issues if the rain is blowing in your face.
  • Getting Cold and Wet: Getting soaked doesn’t just feel awful – it can be bad for your health. Being wet makes you cold, which as we mentioned can increase your risk of getting sick. If you have health conditions, check with your doctor to find out any risks of getting completely soaked.

Walking Indoors on Rainy Days

Walking in the rain isn’t for everyone. Sometimes the rain is just too heavy, or your physical condition does not allow you to walk outside in bad weather. All hope is not lost, though! When the skies turn grey, this may be the best time to switch up your walking routine.

Brisk Indoor Walking Locations:

Woman sweating after treadmill cardio workout
nd3000 / Shutterstock

Not every indoor space is set up for brisk walking. Use these areas to get in some fast walking, even when it’s wet.

  • Treadmill: As the rains start, now may be a great time to give a treadmill a try. If you don’t have a membership at a local gym, you can always use a rainy day to check one out for the first time. They may offer a free day pass (or let you work out for a small fee). If you live in a very rainy location, consider looking into a cheap treadmill for the house. Treadmills let you work out completely free of the elements, plus offer benefits like being able to adjust the speed or incline at any time.
  • Your Local Mall: Malls are a great place to get those steps in because of their long hallways and ample room. Malls are on a decline in many areas, but this may actually benefit your walking as there may be fewer people and more room to walk. Try heading out first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. Not only will hitting the mall allow you to get your miles in and still keep your walking intensity at a decent level, but the scenery and the shops can keep you engaged and have you walking longer than usual.
  • Hallway Walking/ Stairs: Hitting the halls with some co-workers while it is raining is a great way to bond during a lunchtime power walk. Throwing in a few sets of stairs will also get that intensity up, so you will be burning more calories. What’s even better is some studies even indicate that a 10-minute moderate stair walk gives you a more significant boost of energy than a cup of coffee. A win-win even on those gloomy days.
  • Try a Walking Video: Getting in a great power walking workout in the comfort of your own home may be as easy as hitting ‘play.’ There are plenty of YouTube walking videos that provide you with a low-impact, calorie busting walking workout that can be done right in your living room. You can also simply walk in place or pace while watching TV.

Leisurely Walking Locations

Man walking indoors in a museum
ArtOfPhotos / Shutterstock

If you don’t need to get in a brisk walk, or you want to try something different, try these ideas. They’re not ideal for power walking, but they can be a great way to get your steps.

  • Retail Shops/Grocery Stores: Big box stores or supermarkets have large open spaces where you’ll have plenty of room to walk. You may not be able to get as an intense of a walking workout in a smaller retail shop or a grocery store because space is more limited than a mall, but you can still get those laps in for a solid walking workout. Dress warmly however, as many are very cold to keep produce fresh.
  • Museums: Museums are a great place to go for a walk. You’ll need to walk slower and you’ll likely stop to view the art, but you can knock out a few miles while enjoying the artifacts or paintings around you. You never know, you may even discover a new passion you never knew you had! You don’t need to limit yourself to art or natural history museums either. Chances are your local area has some kind of museum that you can explore.

Final Thoughts

Walking is a great physical exercise that produces fantastic health benefits and can be done by almost anyone and any fitness level. What’s even better is that fitness walking can be tailored to fit individual needs and preference levels. However, many fitness walkers feel that their walking options are dependent on the weather. You’ve seen how walking doesn’t have to be dependent on the weather, and you can get your steps anywhere and any time!

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8 Healthy Reasons To Walk In The Rain. (ND). Foot Files. 

Can rain clean the atmosphere? Study explains how rain droplets attract aerosols out of the atmosphere. (2015) By Jennifer Chu. MIT News.

Effects of rain on energy metabolism while running in a cold environment. (2013). By Ito R, Nakano M, Yamane M, Amano M, Matsumoto T. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health


Stair walking is more energizing than low dose caffeine in sleep-deprived young women. (2017) By Derek D.Randolph, Patrick J.O’Connor. Science Direct. 

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