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How to keep your kids active in the winter

As the cooler weather approaches and the summer days that were full of seemingly endless options for outdoor activities come to an end, it’s still important to keep your family active. Staying active during the cooler winter months poses some challenges, but it is possible to keep your children active during any season.

Benefits of regular physical activity

Regular physical activity can help children and adolescents reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Children and youth aged 5–17 should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-high level physical activity daily according to the World Health Organization. By following these guidelines your child will improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers. These are the guidelines are for a healthy active child. Variations and lesser time with moderate exercise should be considered if a child is not used to daily activity. Some lower-level exercise is better than none as a general rule.

Indoor activities to consider to stay active

If you use a little imagination you can transform any size room into a safe “activity zone” and there are affordable options for any budget. Consider an extra bedroom or indoor office that isn’t being used to set up an indoor activity area. If you don’t have an extra room to utilize you can use any space as long as you do a quick check to ensure safety. Be sure to remove any obstacles and leave an open area where there are no sharp or potentially hazardous items that could pose a danger to children.

There are some fun indoor games that also provide light physical activity that are simple and can be created with items you likely already have around the home. Consider setting up an indoor target golf game. Simply take a cardboard box and place numbers over each entry hole that you create. Then you allow your child the opportunity to hit a golf ball into the numbered holes. Whoever scores the most wins. Or try tin can bowling if you have a child that loves to bowl. You can just paint some old tin cans, set them up like bowling pins and use an indoor friendly play ball. There are a wide range of indoor games and activities for any age if you use your imagination. Whether you want to get creative and make the props yourself as a family project or purchase indoor activity games, they are a great way to introduce children to daily indoor activities.

Some other options to stay physically active during cold weather are:

  • Go outdoors. Dress appropriately and as long as there’s no extreme weather enjoy some outdoor time like taking a walk at a local park. Just because it’s winter does not mean you have to stay indoors.
  • Try another indoor location besides your home, such as an indoor activity play area. In the winter months especially, getting out of the house can help prevent cabin fever.
  • Check out a local gym or YMCA, many of them offer kids activities and play areas as well as indoor swimming pools. It’s worth the membership fee if you use it.
  • Try an exercise video. Interactive exercise videos can be fun and beneficial for mental and physical well being.

Perhaps most importantly parents should consider limiting children’s screen time. Online social media activity and online gaming can absorb a large amount of free time. Getting your children involved in regular activities and social groups such as scouts, dance classes or sports is an excellent way to introduce them to socializing outside of school or the home and these groups provide opportunities to exercise as well.

If your child needs a physical evaluation or medical check-up of any type, or if you have questions about safety of activity levels prior to starting an exercise routine, contact our family-oriented staff to schedule an appointment at Glen Allen Pediatrics.