A Happy, Healthy Winter

By Kipp Hanley

The game was called “stick”.

During the middle of winter when I was in elementary school, my high school brother used to play this rough and tumble game with me. The goal was to get to the “end zone” in our basement, marked by a tall black pole on one side and a bookshelf on the other. All it took was a tiny, plastic football and some creative squirming from me, to cross about 12 feet of checkered carpet gridiron with my brother (on his knees to level the playing field) doing his best to thwart my mission.

‘Stick’ proved to be a creative example of how children can stay active and healthy, even on a chilly winter day.

There isn’t just one secret to keeping children active and healthy during the onset of cold weather. The American Council on Exercise suggests several things you can do that can provide exercise for your little ones while you get stuff done around the house or while running errands.

1. Take your children to the gym to workout. Many gyms offer parent/children Yoga and Pilates classes, youth circuit classes and family personal training.

2. Take your children to the mall for some vigorous walking. You can even make a competition of it. Divide children and parents into equal teams and race to see which team can get to a certain store most quickly, avoiding all obstacles (i.e. other shoppers) in your path. Also, you can take the staircase instead of the popular mall escalator to burn calories and energy.

3. Take a timeout during television commercials to enjoy an exercise break. Or have your children accompany you while doing laundry or taking out the trash.

4. Purchase children’s exercise videos and games or take-home yoga kits to help children stay active while indoors.

A child’s imagination can also help keep them active. One of the best things a parent can do to keep their children happy and healthy in the winter is to encourage them to play creative games around the house like hide-and-go-seek or Twister. These games get your children off the couch and moving while having fun. This way, both parents and children can be healthy together.

Fitness experts contend that while children tend to eat more in the winter, the larger problem is a decrease in activity. According to a recent Associated Press article, studies show that on average, children burn just half as many calories during the winter as they do during the summer. With obesity doubling in children and teenagers in the last 30 years, combating this winter downturn could prove instrumental in reversing this trend.

Winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snow ball fights and even making snow angels get the blood flowing in a child who otherwise would be inside watching television or playing a video game.

Just make sure children don’t overdo it, urges Marine Corps Base Physical Therapy Department head Michele Weinstein. Weinstein recommends the following tips when it comes to a child’s outdoor activities.

1. Watch for signs of frostbite. Even limited time outdoors can be harmful to the skin if the weather is cold enough.

2. Be aware of the sun and the wind. During the winter, the sun can reflect off the snow and ice, irritating skin. So be sure to use sunscreen, regardless of the temperature. Also be aware that too much exposure to wind, especially on the face, can leave skin raw.

3. Be aware of body temperature. That means taking breaks and coming inside periodically to warm up.

4. Keep hydrated. When it’s cold, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water because you don’t feel as hot. However, Weinstein says don’t wait until you feel thirsty. That’s a common mistake children make when they exercise in the cold weather.

Of course, keeping children happy and healthy during the winter is not all fun and games. Simple things like washing their hands, eating right and taking vitamins are good ways for children to avoid colds, fevers and the flu bug. As a parent, practice what you preach.

“Being a physical therapist and athletic trainer is a part of my profession that carries over into everyday life,” Weinstein said. “It has to or you lose credibility. [If not], I would be like the cardiologist that smokes.”

Weinstein, a two-time Marine Corps Marathon competitor, has been a physical therapist for 20 years and she makes sure her three children follow her example by eating right and getting plenty of exercise no matter the time of year.

Use the goal of the Marine Corps Marathon Healthy Kids Fun Run held each October to inspire your children to keep exercising as the weather starts to get cooler.

Just For You:

Articles in the Health Kids Series are presented by the Marine Corps Marathon Healthy Kids Fun Run to be held on the final Saturday in October 2007. Visitwww.marinemarathon.com  for more information. The one-mile run welcomes children ages 6-13. Kipp Hanley is the Marketing Coordinator for the Marine Corps Marathon. No federal or Marine Corps endorsement implied.


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