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February 22, 2018

How to Keep Your Children Active During the Winter

It is time for another much needed pediatric blog. I apologize for the lack of blogs recently as cold and flu season is in full swing and the office has been extremely busy as we have been inundated with cold and flu patients. I think as a practice we have done a great job getting everyone in who has needed to be seen in a timely fashion. I also hope that you and your family have remained well as this flu season has been especially bad. For flu tips and over the counter medication information see the previous pediatric blogs. Lastly, I hope everyone enjoyed all the snow we had back in January as much as my family and I did.

Ok so let’s jump right into the blog. For those of you whose children have seen me for wellness visits you know that there are three important pieces of information that we discuss which pertains to maintaining good health and normal development; they are sleep, nutrition, and exercise. In past blogs we have touched on all three of these important pieces but I get a lot of questions about how to keep children active during the winter months, especially when it is so cold outside. We are all aware that regular physical activity is important and that it has many health benefits, but many children aren’t getting enough exercise and this is especially worse in the winter months. Therefore this is going to be the main focus of this week’s blog. With the peak of winter already passing I am sure much of us are feeling the effects of cabin fever setting in and the kids certainly are ready to be out and about. Spring sports are getting ready to start but what are some other ways to remain active during the winter?

I get it, in the winter it is cold outside, it gets dark earlier, and the couch is just so inviting. So let us take a look at some good options to get the kids more active. First and foremost, just because it is cold outside does not mean you have to stay inside! The key is to bundle them up. Dress in layers, wear boots instead of gym shoes, wear thicker warmer socks, wear a hat at all times, and wear mittens or gloves. The rule of thumb for older babies and younger children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same condition. So get the kids outside for some exercise! Encourage them to go to the park, walk the dog, shoot basketball or play outside with friends. Incorporating these activities into your kids’ daily routines even in the winter will help them develop healthy lifestyles that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. As a refresher, it is recommended that children and adults get an hour a day of exercise, but remember these activities can be accumulated throughout the day and not necessarily need to be done all at once. Lastly, moving around outside get their heart rate up, this keeps them warm as well.

For those really cold days, try choosing an indoor location that also incorporates physical activity such as the bowling alley, local gym, indoor basketball court, roller or ice skating rink, indoor pool, or indoor play park (Jumpstreet) / trampoline (Defy Gravity). If you are looking to get your kids involved in something fun and consistent, try enrolling them in a class or encourage them to learn to play a musical instrument. Doing so is a great way to get them to try something new, be active, and meet new people. Trying new things is a great way to figure out what they might or might not like. There are many classes throughout the community that are inexpensive and easy to do. If you have trouble getting to a class or don’t like group activities, have your kids try a kid-friendly exercise video. These videos can be found even online; Cincinnati Children’s developed their own fitness video for kids that I will post a link to below (Youtube video) as well as some other links to workouts. For those kids who love video games, try incorporating some physical activity at the same time. Although it is probably not as beneficial as outdoor play, many of the latest gaming systems offer some great family-friendly options to get everybody moving in the warmth of your own home, however, this option can be expensive. For example, there is Xbox Kinect, Playstation Move and Nintendo Wii.

During the winter it is much harder to limit screen time but remember this still remains a high priority. Children now spend according to the data more than six and half hours a day in front of a screen, which includes TV, video games, computers, phones, and tablets. This is likely one of the reasons why kids today just are not getting enough physical activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents limit their kids’ screen time to two hours or less per day. By doing this, kids are much more likely to be active. In order for kids to find exercise fun, they need lots of variety, so avoid the boredom factor by offering as many different options for activity as possible. When they find exercise fun, they are much more likely to stick with it over an extended period of time. Plus, trying new physical activities together as a family will not only benefit you and your child’s health but promotes family time and bonding.

That wraps up this week’s pediatric blog. I hope you found it informative and that you will try some of these ideas with your children and family.

References; (link to kid’s workout videos)

Written By: Christopher Elkins, CPNP

Practitioner Elkins was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by the PNCB (Pediatric Nursing Certification Board). He sees patients from birth to 21 years of age. Christopher and his wife Erin have an 8-year-old son, Everett. Christopher and his family enjoy traveling to the mountains of North Carolina in the fall; enjoy the beaches during the summer, and concert-going all year round.

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