Pregnancy Articles

Warming Up to Winter Exercise

Tips for Getting in a Workout When the Weather Gets Cold

During long summer days, getting outside for exercise before or after work is a pleasure compared with the dark mornings and evenings of winter. It takes a bit of planning and preparation to continue your exercise program post-summer, but the benefits of a better mood and fitter body make the effort worth it.

The first thing to consider is whether you prefer exercising in the morning or the evening. Many people find they're more consistent with their exercise if they do it first thing in the morning. If that's you, think about how you can work in 20-40 minutes of cardio before your day begins. If exercising in the cold is unappealing, consider purchasing indoor exercise equipment. It can be more efficient to exercise at home (especially if you have small children). Check garage sales, newspaper classified ads and swap sites (like Craigslist) for ideas.

There are plenty of exercises you can do without leaving the comfort of your home--and without fancy equipment. Start by checking out BabyFit's Exercise Demos and Videos. If you are in the market for some workout gear, the SparkPeople Store has affordable portable equipment.

If your mornings are too crunched for exercise, consider using your lunch break to fit in a workout. You may not have time to do a full workout, but a 20-minute walk is a great way to burn calories and maintain fitness. If you live or work near a mall, take advantage of the climate-controlled environment to keep walking even in the dead of winter. If you're a stay-at-home mom, grab a friend and put the kids in the stroller. Take them for a walk and catch up with your friend at the same time.

Another option is to hit the gym on your way home from work, or if you're a stay at home mom, do a hand off when your partner gets home and then head out for your exercise time.

Whether you exercise in the morning, during lunch or in the evening, remember that planning is the key to success. Schedule exercise like you would any other important activity, and stick with your commitment. It takes more focus to continue your fitness program as the days get shorter and colder, but just think of it as a new challenge.

With the right clothing and planning, outdoor snow activities like cross country skiing and snowshoeing are great ways to have fun and stay fit. You may not want to try these more strenuous activities if you're new to the sports, but if you have experience with them you can hit the trails safely by following the tips below:

  • Always check with your doctor before starting any prenatal fitness program.
  • If possible, exercise outdoors in the winter with a friend. If you do head out alone, take a fully charged cell phone and let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return.
  • Bring along water and a snack, and store them close to your body so they don't freeze.
  • Wear winter worthy fabrics--the new easy care merino wool tops and pants are great for keeping your warm, and layers are the best way to ward of cold. Avoid cotton clothing, as once it gets wet with sweat it can hold moisture next to your skin and increase heat loss.
  • Always have several hand warmer packets to in case you become really chilled. They're easy to use--just break open the packet and shake--and provide warmth for several hours.
  • Avoid hilly cross country ski trails when pregnant, as your balance can be altered and falls are more of a risk.
  • Keep your head covered and consider a face mask if it's windy. Remember that the wind can increase the risk of frostbite, and you should always check the temperature and wind-chill factor before heading outside.
  • Eat a snack an hour before exercising outdoors and include some fat in the mix to provide sustained fuel for your exercise in the cold. Cheese, peanut butter or regular yogurt (not light) will help provide the fuel needed to keep your core warm.
  • Start with short, moderate-level winter outdoor workouts, and slowly increase your workout duration and intensity only when your body feels ready. Be aware of your body's signals and cut your workout short if you start to feel exhausted or chilled.
  • If you choose to walk or run outdoors in the winter, use caution on icy terrain. Consider wearing traction devices such as "Yak Traks" to help keep you stable on icy sidewalks.
Winter can be an exciting time of year if you decide to look at the snow and cold as a challenge, not a chore. It's all about dressing for the weather and changing your mindset to make snow the playground it was when you were a child!

Cathy Cram, M.S., is a BabyFit Resident Maternal Fitness Expert.
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About The Author

Catherine Cram
Cathy Cram, M.S., has worked in the field of prenatal and postpartum fitness for more than a decade. Her goal is to help women have the healthiest pregnancies possible.

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