Keeping Kids Active in Winter

Some of my patients and their families have already heard my simple recommendation: keep balance in your life. This balance includes mind and body, sedentary and active activities, and diet. Apply the principle of One-to-One to some of these concepts, and you can achieve balance – for every hour of sedentary activity you choose to do, you need to do an hour of aerobic activity. Most importantly: do it as a family!

The dark, cold days of winter can lead to an imbalance with physical activity. It’s essential to remain active to keep your body’s metabolism elevated and to decrease the risk of converting it to a storage body.  The recommended activity is atleast 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day — preferably in minimal intervals of twenty minutes.  At minimum, achieve a goal of 3 days per week. The following list of activities is a comprehensive mixed collection of ideas to keep it all fun and effective.

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OUTDOORS

Dress in layers and breathe some fresh air while walking park trails, sledding, skating, snowshoeing, skiing, walking around the neighborhood or school track, or volunteering to walk dogs for your home or other households. If weather conditions permit, consider riding a mountain bike. Remember safety first!

GO TO AN INDOOR FACILITY TO KEEP MOVING

These places include your local YMCA, an ice rink, an indoor swimming pool, a local school gymnasium, a bowling alley, a local library, or the nearest shopping mall. Activities like basketball, soccer, ice-skating, swimming, rock climbing, walking/climbing stairs, and exercise machines (like a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical devices) are great aerobic challenges. Create simple, short contests with potential rewards to motivate and encourage each other.

  • Other community indoor facilities include a museum, a zoo, or the Pittsburgh Science Center.  You can expand your mind as well as keep your body moving.
  • Consider instructional classes like dance, martial arts, yoga, zumba, and gymnastics. These incorporate aerobic activity with core muscle strength and balance exercises.

AT HOME

Be creative and, again, keep it fun. Get moving during commercials! Dance, do jumping jacks, squats, sit ups, push ups, run in place, have a short pillow fight, play musical chairs/sofas until the program starts again.  Again make it a fun contest with a reward. Active games like Simon says, Red light/ Green light, Twister, Hopscotch, and Chase are easy to do anywhere inside or outside the home. Here are three other activities that are fun:

“HELICOPTER”

A fail-safe tool for fun and activity is a jump rope! In this game, there will be one spinner and all others become jumpers. The spinner stands in the middle with one end of the rope, jumpers stand in a wide circle around them. The spinner begins turning the rope in circles on the ground and says “Helicopter, helicopter over my head, I choose a color and the color is… (insert color).” If the jumpers are wearing that color, they must come into the circle and attempt to jump over the rope. Repeat with new colors and new spinners.

“SHADOW, SHADOW”

This game requires pairing up. Each pair determines a leader and a shadow. The leader makes funny and exaggerated movements–running, skipping, walking, jumping–around the room. The shadow must follow their every movement while the leader can attempt to shake them. Continue for a designated time and then switch roles.

CLEANING THE HOUSE (Yes, really!)

You can make it fun by playing music and dancing while getting the chores done together.

“EXERGAMING”

Video games that require physical movement. A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that these games can elevate the energy expenditure to moderate or vigorous intensity (in some cases, requiring even more energy than walking on a treadmill!) This can be an alternative to traditional aerobic fitness activities.

The sunny warm days will return soon. Whatever activity you choose to do make certain you have fun and do it together!

Dr. Lucas Godinez, a Kids Plus Doc since 2004, spends a lot of time being active, so his expertise on this subject is both personal and professional.