Staying Fit During a Winter Pregnancy

A winter pregnancy has its challenges. Cold weather can diminish your will to exercise and eat well.  What sounds better than a cozy couch and comfort food?  Many women think that being pregnant provides free rein to eat anything and dreary weather can contribute to making poor food choices.  A women pregnant with one baby needs NO extra calories during the first trimester and only an additional 300 calories in the second and third.  Adding a 10:00 am bowl of oatmeal and a banana is enough.  Eating for two means that you need more nutrients per calorie.  Pregnancy cravings are not a sign that your body needs a specific nutrient, a common misconception.  They usually occur because your diet and blood sugar are not properly balanced.  Keep in mind that the more junk you eat, the more junk you want.  If you stop to ask yourself what you really crave, the answer is more likely a nap rather than the donut that you will regret later.  It comes down to making smart choices and there are ways to increase the nutrients in the comfort foods you crave.

 Improve Comfort Food

  • Resolve to only eat whole fruit based desserts this winter.  A cranberry-apple crisp provides you and your baby with vitamins, minerals, fiber and grains as compared with a piece of chocolate cake which provides empty calories, artificial colors, a blood sugar spike and future cravings.
  • Add more vegetables to any main dish.  Make a vegetarian chili by leaving out the meat to reduce calories and fat while still getting all the protein you need from beans.  Bell peppers, tomatoes and corn all up the fiber and nutrients while maintaining the hardiness of this comfort food.

 Exercise: The Winter Cure

Dark, overcast days and inactivity can trigger the blues and cravings.  It’s easy to stay home.  When you experience these feelings, it’s the perfect time to head to the gym!  I guarantee that if you show up tired or down you will leave with more energy and higher spirits.  Exercise increases serotonin in the brain.  This is a big deal during pregnancy because serotonin levels are associated with mood, energy and feeling full.  The more you exercise, the fewer cravings you will have, the more energetic you will be and the happier you will feel.  While just getting to the gym may be the hardest part, you may find that prenatal exercise is better during the winter.  Your body runs hotter when you are pregnant, so exercising in cold weather is more comfortable.  I found that even in January I often wore shorts and a tank at the gym.  Be sure to stay hydrated, even though you may sweat less during cold weather workouts.

 Wise Exercise

Most women focus almost entirely on cardio, but a much wiser strategy is a combination of cardio and weight-bearing, resistance training.  Cardio abilities diminish as pregnancy progresses because the baby crowds the diaphragm making it harder to breathe.  As cardio workouts become less intense, women don’t burn enough calories and they start gaining too much weight.  Without a solid weightlifting program in place many don’t know what to do other than walk.  Walking is fine, but it is not the most beneficial or effective exercise.

 Join a class and be social.  It doesn’t need to be a prenatal exercise class.  Women with low risk pregnancies can continue to enjoy a similar fitness routine and intensity well into their pregnancies.  The social support of classmates can keep you motivated. While lifting weights is one of the best prenatal activities, I recommend avoiding group weights classes because they are performed at an inappropriate speed for pregnancy.

 Join a gym for the winter.  You may be less likely to go outside to exercise if it is cold or wet, but the weather never changes inside the gym.  Try to go to the gym at the same time everyday and you will come to know the ‘regulars’.  Having a sense of community, even with gym acquaintances and staff, combats winter isolation and fosters some level of accountability that you will not have if you are exercising at home alone.  Even the bright florescent lighting has a positive effect on serotonin levels making you feel happier.

 Expert Guidance

Designing a workout plan for pregnancy can be challenging because your body is constantly changing.  It is easier to stay motivated and committed if you are following a plan.  MOMMY FABULOUS: Complete Pregnancy Nutrition and Fitness Guide, Designed to Deliver a Fabulous Postpartum Figure by Danielle Federico, M.P.H ( details the best strategies for having a fit pregnancy.

Danielle Federico, M.P.H. is the author of “MoMMY FaBulous: Complete Pregnancy Fitness and Nutrition Guide, designed to deliver a Fabulous Postpartum Figure.” ( she holds a Masters of Public health from uC Berkeley and is a personal trainer and nutritional counselor. Danielle’s popular blog provides nutrition, health and fitness information for anyone looking to lead a healthier life.