Keeping Your Kids Active During the Winter Months

Health Professional, Medical Reviewer

Winter is almost here. As the shortest day of the year approaches, we are challenged with making the most of the daylight hours.  Soon it will be dark at 5:00 PM, and if your child gets home at 4:00 from school, they don’t have much time to play outside.  Many parents struggle with keeping their kids active in the winter due to cold weather and limited daylight hours.  Here are some creative ways to keep your kids moving this winter:

Play Outside

If your kids are dressed for the weather, it’s still possible for them to play outside and stay warm. When the snow falls, sledding with friends is a great way to burn extra calories. Try sledding or snow tubing in your neighborhood—while the downhill ride is fun, the walk back up the hill provides great leg strengthening and cardiovascular exercise. Playing in the snow, such as building snowmen or a snow fort, provides a great moderate intensity workout. While most grown-ups don’t enjoy shoveling snow, kids might like to help with this activity. It’s a great upper body workout for everyone and younger kids can lend a hand, too. Purchase a few smaller, kid-sized shovels and have them help you clear the sidewalk, driveway, or cars.

Consider investing in some cross-country skis for the family. There’s no need to head to a ski slope for this family workout - a snowy field or park close to home is a simple way to get a great workout. Cross-country skiing is one of the most effective total body workouts.

On the weekends when the sun is high in the sky, bundle up and go for a family walk. If you get cold quickly, consider going for two separate 30-minute walks each day. By walking briskly, you can log 2 miles in just 30 short minutes.

Indoor Activities


On a weekend afternoon, take the family to an indoor ice skating or roller skating rink. It’s a family outing that can get both adults and kids moving for several hours. If you belong to a gym that has an indoor pool, your kids can keep up their swimming skills during the winter. If you don’t have a gym membership, most fitness centers charge only a nominal fee for a day pass. Local hotels that have indoor pools will often allow you to swim in their pool for a small fee.

Take the whole family for an afternoon of shopping in a large indoor mall or outlet mall. Take a few laps around the mall before the stores open to burn some extra calories before your shopping spree.

There are many more indoor activities available to kids today. Try visiting an indoor trampoline park or rock climbing center, or even an indoor pool. Your kids can learn new skills and develop their balance, coordination, and flexibility. These are great workouts for adults, as well.

Exercise at home


If you’re stuck inside your house, get creative about ways to get kids moving. Instead of having your kids sit in front of the TV or computer, have an indoor dance party or family Wii tournament. Pop in an exercise DVD that the whole family can do. Young children enjoy working out with their parents, and it can help to develop strength, coordination, and flexibility.

Try a new sport


If your kids don’t participate in winter sports, consider signing them up to try something new this winter. Schools often have after-school basketball and indoor track programs.  Go to your local recreation center and try your hand at indoor tennis, racquetball, volleyball, or archery.

The bottom line

While it’s tough to stay active when it’s cold outside, a little bit of creativity is all it takes to keep the family fit and active during the winter months. It’s tempting to stay home on the couch and catch up on emails, but try to make an effort to get out and get active. Your kids will enjoy the quality time you spend with them and maybe even learn some new skills.

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