MassGeneral Hospital for Children News

Christina Scirica, MD, MPH, a MassGeneral Hospital for Children pulmonologist and weight expert, offers advice on how the whole family can stay active and healthy during freezing temperatures.

How to stay healthy and active during the winter

24/Jan/2014

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When venturing outside means putting on layers of fleece and bracing one’s self against the cold, even the most courageous among us may be tempted to linger in the comfort of a cozy couch. It can be a challenge to keep up healthy habits during the winter months, but with just a little extra effort and some creativity, it can be done. In fact, it can even be fun!  Here are a few tips for keeping your family active and eating healthy through the winter.

  • Don’t be afraid of the cold!  By bundling up, you can enjoy the great outdoors in almost any weather.
  • Think it takes too long to bundle kids up to go outside?  Streamline cold-weather dressing by storing jackets, boots, hats and mittens where you can grab them quickly.  A drying rack or mitten tree near the door helps wet clothes dry quickly and keeps them at the ready for the next wintry outing. 
  • Make use of the snow!  If there’s snow outside, the options for outdoor activities are many. Families looking for adventure may wish to try a winter sport like skiing (downhill or cross-country), ice skating, or even show-shoeing.  If you have never tried a winter sport before or need to rent equipment, look online for places that offer lessons and rentals. If you’re looking for something more low-key, it’s hard to beat the classic charm of building a snowman or snow-fort – or of a good, old-fashioned snowball fight. The best part: no expensive lift tickets or gear! 
  • What if there’s no snow?  Don’t let lack of snow keep you inside.  A brisk walk or hike can be just the thing to ward off the winter doldrums. If the roads and sidewalks are clear, consider going for a winter bike ride.
  • Still at a loss for ideas?  When you’re running out of ideas for what to do to stay active, turn to others for inspiration.  The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Kids Outdoors and Outdoors Rx programs offer ideas and even free programs for getting families active outside. 
  • Simply too cold for you?  Even those who simply can’t bring themselves to venture out in the cold can still find ways to stay active inside. Just be creative.  Most kids love to dance - so pump up the volume and get moving!
  • Try healthier alternatives to traditional comfort foods. Instead of turning to hot chocolate to warm up from the cold, consider less sugary options like decaffeinated tea. Kids who don’t like black tea often change their minds when it comes to milder flavors like decaf mint, chamomile or peach.  And even when sweetened with a spoonful of honey, tea has less sugar and fewer calories than the typical cup of hot chocolate.
  • Defy temptation with preparation. Consider bringing a thermos with warm tea or soup along on winter outings.  This may help you avoid giving in to temptation and buying something less healthy along the way. 

 

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