When kids are in school until just before night falls (at 4:15), how do you peel them off the warm and cozy couch to get some much-needed exercise?
How do you get kids to exercise in the winter when it’s freezing outside — and nighttime by 4:15?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an hour of aerobic activity a day for all children, every day. But if kids are cooped up in the house, the street lights are on, and the parks are frozen over, how does that happen? After all, the Seattle area has less than nine hours of daylight a day this time of year — and, for older kids, six of those hours are spent at school.
“It’s a big challenge, with it getting dark so early it’s hard to find time unless there’s are some indoor facilities or something that kids have access to,” says Dr. Manny Eusebio, a pediatrician at Pacific Medical Center in Northgate.
“The most broad-based resource would be probably be through the Seattle community centers that are in basically every neighborhood. The community centers have awesome programs for everything from indoor soccer to badminton to just pickup playgroups, essentially.”
“Almost every neighborhood, no matter where you are in King County, has some sort of community center access.”
As he recalls, he made use of this himself with his kids, who are now grown: “They would just play sports from fall all the way through spring through their schools or through club teams.”
Other options for kids include indoor soccer (such as at Arena Sports or community centers), but Eusebio says not to forget groups like Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and The Mountaineers, which offer outdoor activities and group adventures, often at a fairly low cost.
“My strong preference is — if at all possible — get them outdoors when there’s some daylight,” he said.
Pools throughout the area have full schedules through the winter and are another good option. And you don’t need to be a member of an expensive swim club to get onto a team or take a lesson. Community centers have done a good job here too, of offering inexpensive options for everyone, such as lessons and competitive swimming.
In essence, that recommended hour a day “can be everything from running around an open playfield, to select level basketball,” said Eusebio.
And, if you can’t get out of the house, he recommends video-game fitness programs like the Wii Fit. For older kids, an indoor bike trainer will give them a workout.
And for littler ones, bouncy houses are always another option, even if they risk picking up more than a few germs on a crowded day.
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But it is worth it to get kids to stay active and healthy overall, says Eusebio.
“Bring some Purell. But go out there and have fun.”