Michael Anderson: Keep kids active over the winter

Michael Anderson

As the fall season comes to an end and the cold winter settles in, how do you plan to keep your kids active during the next few months?

While many kids participate in winter sports programs, some are left to their own devices, opting to spend a significant amount of their time in front of the TV or playing video games.

As everyone knows, childhood obesity is an ever-growing epidemic, where one in three teens is considered overweight. And considering that children tend to eat more during the winter but burn, on average, half the calories that they do during the warmer months, it is even more important than ever to keep them moving until spring.

While it may seem that your options are limited during the winter, most town recreation departments offer a variety of winter programs for kids including boys and girls basketball, gym workouts and wrestling.

Other organized sports such as youth hockey and indoor soccer, as well as karate and judo are also great ways to keep kids active.

Here are a few more ideas taken from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation at www.healthiergeneration.org:

1. Discover indoor facilities

Visit an indoor swimming pool, ice skating rink or basketball court at a local gym, school or community center. You can visit http://www.ymca.net/ on the web to help locate the nearest YMCA and find out about indoor programs that they offer.

2. Dance your heart out

Encourage your child to pick the music, crank it up and then dance away. March, box step, bounce, spin, shake, it is a great way to burn calories.

3. Take it outside

If there is snow where you live, get the whole family outside to do some sledding, build snow forts and throw snowballs. Build a snow sculpture, anything that keeps the kids moving and having fun.

4. Walk the mall

When it’s too cold to venture outdoors, take the family for a brisk walk around the nearest mall. Walk up the stairs versus taking the escalators.

5. Keep it clean

Recruit your kids to help with the housecleaning. Pick jobs based on age and capability: Younger children could pick up toys, while older kids could vacuum, sort laundry or scrub the bathtub.

6. Visit the library

Libraries are a great resource for children’s fitness videos and books, which you can use to teach your child about indoor exercises. Best of all, it’s free.

7. Hit the trails

Go snow trekking, skiing or snowboarding with the kids for a fun aerobic workout. If you don’t have the equipment (or a nearby resort), find a hill ideal for sledding or tubing. Climbing back up after each run will get hearts pumping.

8. Visit a zoo or farm

Zoos and farms are fun winter destinations for learning how life changes through the seasons. Kids could also learn how animals are taken care of during the winter months.

9. Sign ‘em up

Enroll your child in an instructional group class. Try dancing, gymnastics, martial arts, fencing, indoor swimming lessons, anything that will get him or her excited about staying active.

10. Find middle ground

If it’s impossible to pry kids away from the TV, encourage them to do jumping jacks, sit-ups and push-ups during commercial breaks.

If you choose to keep your kids busy and active this winter, make sure you show support by being an active role model for them. Winters will come and go, but leading your kids in the right direction for an active and healthy lifestyle will last a lifetime.

Mike Anderson is the Director of Operations at Wave Health & Fitness in Boston. He has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from the University of Massachusetts, and has been a personal trainer for more than 20 years. Anderson has been coaching youth sports in Danvers, Mass., for several years, including baseball, football and wrestling. He has two children, Sam, 13; and Jack, 11. They are both deeply involved in sports, as well as many other activities.