The frantic pace of the holidays is over and now it is the time the damp and chilly days of Mississippi winter set in. Gone are the long, carefree days of summer when the challenge was getting the kids to come indoors each evening. With the shorter, colder days, the hibernation factor kicks in and it’s easy for them to fall into a pattern of retreating indoors and claiming a favorite spot in front of the TV, computer or video game instead of braving the elements outside. It may feel cozy, but a lack of outdoor playtime can take its toll on your kids.
In the winter, it is estimated that children burn only half as many calories as they do in the summer.
Not only does the lack of exercise during the winter months have a negative effect on a child’s physical wellbeing, but it also means kids are storing up a lot of unused energy. So, what can you do to help them get moving and burn off some steam? Here are a few tips for helping your kids stay active as the mercury drops.
Head to the local bowling alley for a few games as a family. Bowling actually has a number of health benefits you may not think about. It helps promote muscle tone of the lower body. And, the stretching and flexing provides exercise for the tendons, ligaments muscles and joints in your arms. It can also be enjoyed at almost any age, from preschoolers to seniors.
Visit a children’s museum or learning center. Many facilities designed to expand children’s understanding of the world around them offer activities that encourage curiosity and foster a love of learning, not only of intellectual and creative pursuits, but also healthy living and overall fitness. A day at the museum can help burn off some of that pent up energy and make learning fun.
Sign kids up for winter activities they can do indoors. Check out classes like swimming, dance, gymnastics, martial arts or winter sports teams for kids, such as indoor soccer or basketball. Remember, while classes and team sports are one way to encourage your child to stay active, one class a week or a couple of practices and a game each week, do not provide enough physical activity to meet their overall fitness needs. For kid’s age 6 through 17, mix it up, so they are getting at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity each day.
Make a trip to the Farmer’s Market. If you are in the Jackson area, make a Saturday morning trip to the Mississippi Farmers Market. It will keep you out of the elements and just walking around to all the vendors’ booths is a good way to get the whole family moving. An added benefit is the variety of farm fresh products available, so bring along your reusable shopping bag and pick up some great locally grown foods. Check out the Mississippi Farmers Market website at www.mdac.ms.gov for the market’s winter hours.
Limit Time Spent on Video Games, Television, and Other Media. It’s important to keep your kids from sitting around too much, which can be easy to do once the temperatures drop. Make sure the time spent on screen media is limited to one or two hours daily, and try to incorporate children’s exercise video games, such as Wii FitTM or Kinect® for Xbox®.
Take a family hike or bike ride. Turn an outdoor activity into a family outing so it sounds like more fun than the iconic parental directive to “go outside and play.” A hike in the woods or a bike ride on a designated bike trail can bring the family together to enjoy some fresh air, exercise and natural surroundings. Make sure everyone is dressed appropriately for the weather conditions and pack along individual water bottles for everyone, snack bars or granola for a quick boost of energy and a first aid kit just in case.
Practice what you preach. Whatever you decide to do to get your kids moving this winter, make sure that you’re staying active, too, so that you can set a healthy example.