2007-01-05 / Fitness

Keeping kids active in winter

Winter is wonderful time to be outside. When it snows, bundle children up for snowboarding or other sports to keep them active.Winter is wonderful time to be outside. When it snows, bundle children up for snowboarding or other sports to keep them active. Lakewood - Keeping children healthy through winter is a job that requires creativity and common sense, child health advocates say, especially when it comes to keeping kids physically active. Winter's shorter days and colder temperatures tend to discourage the outdoor exercise that child health specialists increasingly emphasize is central to good health.

With the nasty winter weather months upon us, it's usually not an appropriate time to encourage children's outside activities. It's also an especially tough season for the normally active child who can't just jump on a bike and ride or play outside. Studies show that kids today are exercising less and spending an average of four and a half hours daily in front of TV and computer screens.

"The trend toward inactivity in children is all too common during the winter," says Dave Terlizzi, director of the Kimball Institute for Rehabilitative and Occupational Health Services. "Kids are continuing to eat higher calorie foods and not working them off like they would in warmer weather.

Terlizzi says there are many ways to put your kids' energy to good use during the dreary winter months. Parents play a key role in encouraging their children to remain active when playing outside isn't an option.

Be active yourself, says Terlizzi, because kids follow their parents' example. If you belong to a gym, take your kids with you for a workout. "Many health clubs and YMCAs now have expanded programs for kids and parents like parent/child yoga and Pilates, and youth circuit classes," Terlizzi notes.

If they can get outside, encourage children to be creative in their play. Winter is wonderful time to be outside. Parents, remember how fun it was to play outside during the winter months? When it snows, bundle them up for sledding, snow soccer, fort-building, ice skating, snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding. Organize a snowman contest, and let the kids decorate with food coloring in spray bottles. Building a snowman is great exercise for your kids. There's really an abundance of activities that children can do in the winter that are both fun and healthy.

"Children should get approximately 60 minutes of physical activity each day, but that can be broken up into 10 or 20-minute intervals," he says. "If you can't get the kids out of the house, keep them active indoors. You and your children will be happier and healthier for it."

"As an alternative to outdoor activities, many malls offer mall walking and are open early for morning walks. This is a great way to get physical activity with the kids," Terlizzi notes. "Mall walking can become a social occasion by inviting other parents and their children to join you."

You can make it a game, he says, where parents split up with their children into teams and each can compete to reach a certain store in the shortest amount of time. Or have an "eye spy" game with store windows as you take your laps around the mall.

For more information on the Kimball Institute for Rehabilitative and Occupational Health Services please call (732) 942-5900 or contact the Saint Barnabas Health Care Link at (888) SBHS-123.

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