Baby, it's cold outside. It may look like an enticing winter wonderland out the window, but it's often a challenge to exercise when the days are short and nights are cold. The National Athletic Trainers' Association, a not-for-profit organization that represents 30,000 members of the athletic training profession, has tips to help children and adults get on their feet and moving during the months ahead:

- Warm Up and Cool Down: Cold weather constricts muscles, so allow enough time for proper stretching to warm up muscles before you exercise. Cool down with stretches to keep you limber and flexible. Leg, arm and calf stretches should be held for 30 seconds each for best results.

- Dress in Layers: Wear layers for maximum warmth and take them off as needed. Make sure that the layer closest to your skin is a material that will "wick" moisture from your skin. Your outer layer should be wind proof as well as water resistant. And, don't forget a hat or headband and gloves to keep you well insulated. Wear reflective clothing if you work out in the dark.

- Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make sure to wear shoes or boots that fit properly and will also keep the snow and moisture from getting your feet wet and cold. Material such as GORE-TEX® is best for insulation and maximum results.

- Stock Up on Smart Foods: It's easy to grab a cookie or holiday treat in lieu of a healthy snack alternative. Choose foods and beverages that will help fuel your body for cold weather workouts - fruit, whole grain breads, nuts and sports drinks such as Gatorade are the best bet (though a cookie or two is always a deserved reward after you exercise!).

- Stick to Your Routine: If you enjoy running or walking in the warm weather months, there's no reason you can't enjoy these activities year-round by wearing the right winter clothing.

- Try a New Sport: Try something new this winter to spark your interest - snow shoeing or cross country skiing, ice skating and even sledding are great aerobic activities that will get your heart racing and help tone the arms and legs for spring. Since falls on ice are a leading cause of injury, make sure to start slowly and get acclimated to the rink or slope.

- Toss a Snowball: If you're surrounded by a winter wonderland the next few months, pick up a snowball and have some fun with family and friends. This is great upper body exercise. Remember to use correct form, aim and toss moderately - this is not the World Series.

- Start Shoveling: When snow is piled up at your front door, shoveling can be great exercise. Be square to the shovel -- your feet and shoulders should "face" the shovel to avoid injuries to your back, neck, and shoulders. Start slowly to build endurance and improve on technique.

- Bring Along a Buddy: It's hard enough to stay motivated when the weather is a challenge, so bring along a friend who shares your joy of fitness (or will get you moving).

- Join a Gym: If you just can't battle the cold temperatures, join a gym. Many health clubs offer incentives during the winter months that you just can't refuse. Take a swim, try yoga or even learn how to rock climb if you've got that adventurous spirit.

- Use the Mall. Weather outside is terrible? Most malls open for walkers early in the morning. Have you ever noticed that the floor in some malls has different patterns or colors especially along the storefronts? This marks the trail for walkers.

"Create a workout regimen that will keep you motivated, energized and physically active throughout the winter months" says Marjorie J. Albohm, MS, ATC, president of NATA. "Set your own fitness goal so you have a real sense of accomplishment - and some fun - from your winter activities," she adds. "Always consult a physician before starting a new routine or if you have pre-existing health conditions. And, if you live in a warm weather climate, enjoy swimming, walking, cycling, running, or a set of tennis or round of golf to get you in shape for spring."

National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) - Health Care for Life & Sport:

Athletic trainers are unique health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession. NATA advocates for equal access to athletic trainers for patients and clients of all ages and supports H.R. 1846. Only 42 percent of high schools have access to athletic trainers. NATA members adhere to a code of ethics. nata.

National Athletic Trainers' Association

Tag Cloud