It is an unfortunate truth that as temperatures drop so does our physical activity level. This can go double for children and finding ways for all of us to get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily can take a little imagination and persistence. As a place to start, here are some suggestions.
- Turn off the TV/Limit Screen Time
In the winter it is a natural go-to activity to simply turn on the TV, tune into your favorite streaming service and before you know it you’ve binge-watched an entire season. As they say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and frequently if children become bored, they will gravitate to activities that require more effort. Keeping note of how much screen time you and our children are getting can be the first step to getting up and moving. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents limit their kids’ screen time to two hours or less a day. By doing this, kids are much more likely to be active.
- Brave the great outdoors, even if it’s cold
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t go out and play. As I remind my kids on a routine basis, coats were made for a reason. Dressing up in layers, digging out the snow boots and putting on a pair of gloves leaves you fully prepared to face the cold. If dressed right, there is no reason why you can’t go outside and play your favorite sports and games. Take advantage of a recent winter storm to send your kids out to build a snowman, construct a fort, or go sledding at the local hill. It can keep kids both entertained and active.
- Look to the great indoors
On especially bad days going for an indoor activity might be your only choice. Look for a location that incorporates physical activity like the local indoor pool, ropes course, skating rink, bowling alley and local gym. Check with the local rec center to see what classes or sports they may offer. At home, especially for young kids, you can look for games to play such as balloon volleyball, hopscotch, or an indoor obstacle course.
- Break out an exercise video
While exercise videos might be a little old school, there are kid-friendly versions out there that might just get your kid up off the couch. With a quick search on Youtube or www.fitnessblender.com for kid exercise videos, you already have everything you need. You might also check the local library if you want that feel of the exercise DVD in your hands.
- Workout while gaming
If your kid is a gamer at heart, why not turn it into some physical activity? While it’s likely never going be as intense as getting outside or engaging in real exercise, it’s definitely better than nothing and can be done from the warmth of your living room. The Xbox Kinect, PlayStation Move and Nintendo Wii have a handful of games that truly do get heart rates up.
- Make your daily routine active
During the winter time there are some things that still just have to be done, and everyday activity can count just as much as going to the gym. If your kid generally walks to school, takes the dog out, or has certain chores, don’t change your routine just because of the season. Activity doesn’t have to be done all at once and it can be cumulative throughout the day. Establishing good habits that increase activity like taking the stairs whenever possible or parking at the far end of the parking lot when you go to the store can add in those few extra steps that just might make the difference.
Patrick McVey, MD
Canyon View Pediatrics