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, running, jumping and active play.

Here are some ideas we share with our patients and families to help them beat the winter exercise blues:

GO OUTSIDE

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 or indoor pool.

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, video games, 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. So get up, get moving, and stay active this winter!

If you would like more information, please call Children’s Health Care in Batesville at 812-933-6000 or in Greensburg at 812-662-8115 or go to https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/indiana

Dr. Andrew Poltrack is co-medical director of Children’s Health Care Batesville and Greensburg. The practice is currently accepting new patients.

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