Keep Moving this Winter

By Kelly Visser, Iowa Food & Family Project

Don’t let your healthy habits hibernate this winter! With a little creativity and motivation, you can embrace the early sunsets and freezing temperatures to keep moving all season long.

No matter the time of year, experts recommend adults get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week for basic health benefits. This can be broken up to 20 minutes a day, or three 50-minute workouts. It’s recommended that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

For ideas on how to reach recommended levels of physical activity during cold winter months, we connected with Dr. Amy Michelle Willcockson, statewide liaison for Live Healthy Iowa.

“Even in Iowa there’s a cultural fear and negative attitude toward the cold,” she shares. “To continue healthy fitness habits year-round, we need to change our mindset and embrace the different sensations and opportunities the season brings.”

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5 Ideas for Your Wintertime Exercise Routine

  1. Bundle up and brave the cold! Simply getting outside to walk is a great way to rack up exercise minutes. “If you walk at a brisk pace and wear warm gear, you’ll quickly be sweating and forget that it’s even cold out,” Willcockson says. You can opt for a walk around your neighborhood, along one of Iowa’s many trails or in your favorite state park. Do note, if it’s icy or an unsafe temperature, it’s best to stick with indoor activities.

  2. Embrace wintertime-only activities. Grab your sled, skis, skates and shovel to enjoy physical activities you can only do in the wintertime. Visit an ice skating rink or make a few trips up and down a sledding hill for a fun way to keep the whole family moving. “The fresh, crisp air will be good for your body and mind, especially if you’ve been cooped up inside,” she says. Shoveling is another way to get your heart rate up in the wintertime. If you look at it as exercise, it won’t even feel like a chore!

  3. Try something new and take advantage of fitness center specials or trials. While you don’t need a gym or fitness center to stay active, many have promotions going on in January. Consider seeing what specials or trial classes the YMCA, fitness clubs, spin studios, yoga studios or local community education programs have – you may find your new favorite type of workout! “Even if you get a membership or class for a great price, it’s only worth your money if you go,” Willcockson reminds. 

  4. HIIT the breaks. You can incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into downtime throughout the day. These activities should be 30 seconds of work – jumping jacks, wall squats, lunges, high knees, burpees, push-ups – then 60 seconds of rest. “I recommend taking advantage of TV commercial breaks for a few cycles of HIIT,” she says. HIIT workouts produce many of the same health benefits as other forms of exercise in shorter amounts of time. In fact, this type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up to burn more fat in less time.   

  5. Participate in Live Healthy Iowa’s 10 Week Wellness Challenge! You can join a team of 2 to 10 people to track your activity and/or weight loss through the winter months. The simple challenge gives you the motivation and accountability to keep moving while enjoying a fun competition. The challenge starts Jan. 14, but registration is open until Jan. 28.  Learn more here.

Recipes to Keep You Moving

Physical activity starts by fueling your body with high-quality, nutritious ingredients – many of which are grown and raised right here in Iowa. As you plan meals to support your wintertime wellness activities, visit the USDA’s MyPlate online resource for guidance on building a balanced diet. 

Looking for some protein and vegetable-packed meal ideas? Here are a few Iowa-inspired recipes that will keep you satisfied and moving:

Find more recipe ideas here.