Keep Your Child Active – Boston Children’s Answers

Keep Your Child Active – Boston Children’s Answers

Two children sit in a snow pipe while another child pushes them from behind.
Keep your child active in the winter with fun and affordable pursuits. (Image: AdobeStock)

Do not let cold temperatures, snow and ice and fewer hours of sunlight prevent your child from being active.

Instead of indulging in the winter blouse, embrace the season and make sure fun physical fitness activities are part of your child’s daily routine. There is good reason to stay active: “Exercise increases aerobic fitness, strengthens muscles and bones, helps build immunity, facilitates weight control and can improve sleep,” says Cara Ebbeling, co-director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center in Boston The Children’s Hospital.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends children get at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. As part of its “fit kit Circuit” of exercises, the center encourages children to train vigorously for 20 to 30 minutes within those 60 minutes, at least three times a week. Both recommendations apply not only to hot and sunny days, but also cold and cloudy days, says Ebbeling.

The winter weather makes the season unique for outdoor activities that are affordable or no money at all. Your child will probably jump at the chance to sled down the big hill in the city, go cross-country skiing in a nature reserve or skate under the light on an outdoor municipal ice rink. Even an hour of shooting in the local park will do it. Basically, let your child pursue any activity that will help them achieve the training goals outlined above. You will find that you can keep your child active in the winter almost alone with enthusiasm.

An adult skates with a child and only their legs and skates are shown in the picture.
Winter provides an opportunity to try new pursuits. (Image: AdobeStock)

Dress appropriately for the outdoors and stay hydrated

To make outdoor activity comfortable, it is important that your child dresses appropriately. Ebbeling recommends a hat, gloves and warm socks and to dress in layers (a shirt and fleece or sweatshirt under a jacket works).

Also, make sure your child drinks water when exercising outdoors, says Maria Swartz, community outreach program manager for the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center.

Although they may not sweat as much as they do in the summer, they need to stay hydrated. And just as much as your child can enjoy outdoor activities in the winter, there will be days when extreme cold can cause frostbite. Pay attention to the weather forecast and find something fun to do together indoors on the coldest days.

A young boy demonstrates a high knee exercise while standing, in two pictures.
A small child demonstrates the high knee exercise that is part of the “fit kit Circuit”. (Image courtesy of the New Balance Foundation)

Indoor training can be performed in tight spaces

Your child may already spend the winter playing sports they love: hockey, skiing, basketball, kickboxing, or gymnastics. They probably exceed the recommended times for daily and vigorous training.

However, if your child does not belong to a formal program or is not motivated to regularly move around on their own, they should not see winter weather as a reason to give up exercise. Fortunately, you do not need a gym membership or expensive fitness equipment at home to get them moving indoors, Swartz says.

The center devised its fit kit Circuit to not only increase aerobic fitness but also build muscle and bone strength. No special equipment is required for any of the Fit-set Circuits 14 exercises, making it ideal for living rooms and other cramped indoor spaces.

The secret to getting your child motivated for circuit training is to let them choose exercises they enjoy, Swartz says. From the plank-driven “frogs” and side-to-side “skaters” to traditional push-ups and squats, there is no shortage of options, she says. The exercises can be alternated between activity outbursts with rest periods for your child. Read the step-by-step guide to the Circuit Customization Kit.

It’s also worth checking out local community organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, YWCA and YMCA for affordable indoor activities, Swartz says.

Learn more about the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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