Winter can be a challenging time for families, particularly ones with young children. Especially up here in the great white north! Extreme temperature fluctuations, snow storms, and cancellations add a new level of complexity to family life. These situations, in combination with the proclivity of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) often result in increased time spent indoors and missed opportunities for exercise.
As a parent, how can you make certain your child is achieving the recommended hour of physical activity each day? Furthermore, how do you ensure the maintenance of your own physical health and wellness for your family and yourself?
Here are some tips and tricks from a winter-hating Canadian fitness junkie:
BENEFITS OF WINTER EXERCISE
Many of the benefits of winter exercise are the same as any other time of year: increased health, weight control, longevity. However, there are a few winter specific benefits that bear mention. First and foremost, studies have shown that regular exercise can have a positive effect on the immune system.
During the season when children seem to bring home every possible germ, this reason alone is enough to support winter exercise. Furthermore, a National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that exercise has a proven effect in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression. Fitness can strengthen your body and mind, especially in the darker months.
While it can seem counterintuitive to spend time outdoors in the colder months, there are countless winter activities for the whole family. Winter sports such as hockey, sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, and skating are fun ways to embrace the winter and get your blood flowing.
Some families even play soccer and football in the snow. Imagine the boosted effects of running in snow pants! If these
activities require too much time and advance preparation, consider spending time in your yard, a walking trail, or a local park hiking, building snowmen, snow forts, and channeling your inner child by playing outdoors.
While outdoor activities work for some, what about those times when the wind is just too bitter? Or the times when exercise is being made to fit around a busy schedule? Or the times when you just don’t
want to bundle your children in seven layers of snow gear?
Set up an area for active fun in your house. Encourage your kids to play active games, like hide-and-seek or Simon Says. You can even find different child-friendly exercises online. Scavenger hunts and fort building are ways to work their imaginations as well as their muscles. Be sure to incorporate some cooldown time if you are doing this in the evening before bed. A short round of yoga perhaps?
Have a family “beach day”. Hit the local pool for a swim, then indulge in some of your favorite summer snacks while laying on towels in your living room.
Be sure to keep an eye out for local community events that incorporate physical activity. Talk to local gyms to see if they have kid-friendly classes. Check to see if your school has indoor sports options during breaks and after school. Find out where local indoor playgrounds are located and talk to them about membership options. Getting out of the house does a world of good for you and your children, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
PUT THE WIN IN WINTER
Refuse to bow to the elements this winter and get your family moving. Make a plan to commit to your family’s health and wellness by scheduling in regular exercise sessions. Try to find time each week to dedicate to a family activity outdoors, by partaking in an old hobby or learning a new sport.
If you decide that hiding toys in the snow to get your kids to shovel is an ideal activity, I won’t judge; I’ll probably do it myself tomorrow.
Do you have any ideas for winter activities that aren’t mentioned here? Let me know!