BY: CHRISTOPHER KIST, MS, HFS, CPT
We’re all aware that regular physical activity is important and has many health benefits. But even some very active kids have a difficult time keeping the exercise going during the winter months. We get it – it’s cold, it’s dark earlier, and the couch is so inviting.
But despite the weather, it’s important to get kids active and help them stay that way, because the majority of them aren’t getting enough exercise – especially in the winter months. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adolescents ages 6-17 receive 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. This should include aerobic activity as well as age-appropriate muscle- and bone-strengthening activities like push-ups, jumping rope and running.
It may sound like a lot of physical activity, but nearly 80% of adolescents aren’t getting enough aerobic exercise to meet these guidelines. And during the winter months, adolescents are a lot less active as they are in the summer months. Helping kids meet these guidelines can help promote a healthy weight and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
With the winter-like weather in full swing, now is the time to arm your family with some strategies to get and keep them moving! Here are some ideas we share with our patients and families in our Center for Better Health and Nutrition/ HealthWorks! programs to help them beat the winter exercise blues:
7 EXERCISE IDEAS TO KEEP YOUR KIDS ACTIVE THIS WINTER
Just because it’s cold outside does not mean you have to stay inside! The key is to bundle up. Dress in layers, wear boots instead of gym shoes, thicker, warmer socks, a hat at all times, and mittens or gloves. Moving around outside and getting your heart rate up will help keep you warm as well. Encourage your kids to walk the dog, go to the park, shoot basketball or play outside with friends.
TRY ANOTHER INDOOR LOCATION
Especially in the winter months, getting out of the house can help prevent cabin fever. Try choosing a location that also incorporates physical activity like a bowling alley, local gym, indoor basketball court, roller or ice skating rink, or an indoor pool.
CHECK OUT A NEW INDOOR CLASS
If you’re looking to get your kids involved in something fun and consistent, enroll them in a class. It’s a great way to try something new, be active, and meet new people. Trying new things is a great way to figure out what they might like. There are many classes throughout the community that are inexpensive and easy to do. In the local Cincinnati area, here’s a link to Fun2Bfit kids’ exercise classes offered at many different YMCAs.
TRY AN EXERCISE VIDEO
If you have trouble getting to a class or don’t like group activities, have your kids try a kid-friendly exercise video. We developed our own exercise videos to help kids get moving over the winter. There are also quite a few other online exercise resources out there. Here are a few of our favorites: gonoodle.com; darebee.com, fitnessblender.com. If you’re looking for an actual exercise video, check out the selection at the library before you buy them.
WORKOUT WHILE GAMING
If your kids love video games, why not incorporate some physical activity at the same time? Although it’s probably not as beneficial as outdoor play, the latest gaming systems offer some great, family-friendly options to get everybody moving. And it can be done from the warmth of your living room. The following manufacturers have physical activity games: Xbox 360® Kinect, Playstation®Move and Nintendo Wii®. A recent study showed that children who participated regularly in active video games were more likely to take up forms of non-gaming exercise as well.
DO MORE EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES
Everyday activities can count as exercise too, so long as your kids are getting their heart rates up. Things like walking the dog, getting the mail, or going to the park. Incorporating these activities into your kids’ daily routines will help them develop a healthy lifestyle that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Parents should encourage an hour a day, but these activities can be accumulated throughout the day not necessarily all at once.
LIMIT SCREEN TIME
It’s worth noting that children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen, which includes TV, videogames, computers and iPads. This is likely one of the reasons why kids today just aren’t getting enough physical activity. 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.
I believe that in order for kids to find exercise fun, they need lots of variety. And when they find exercise fun, they’re much more likely to stick with it over an extended period of time. Avoid the boredom factor by offering as many different options for activity as possible. Plus, trying new physical activities together as a family will not only benefit your kids’ health, but can help fight the winter exercise blues too. So get up, get moving, and stay active this winter!
Article and image courtesy of CincinatiChildrens.org