Dr. Dana Johnson: Plenty of Ways to Stay Active This Winter


The best way for children to be physically active is through play, and this is often best done outdoors.

Originally published on January 22, 2014 in the Wisconsin State Journal. Dr. Dana Johnson is a pediatrician practicing at the Meriter McKee clinic.

Dear Dr. Johnson: My children are starting to get cabin fever. Do you have suggestions on how to address this?

Dear Reader: Children and adults of all ages benefit from physical activity no matter the time of the year. Lack of physical activity can be especially evident in young children, who tend to become more rambunctious and display more behavior problems when physical activity is limited.

While I find it easier in the warmer months to stay active myself and keep my son active, for our overall physical and mental health, it is important to get regular physical activity year round. Many adults will do this by going to the gym. While some gyms offer fun classes for kids, most children would not and shouldn’t get their exercise on a treadmill.

The best way for children to be physically active is through play, and this is often best done outdoors. While there have been a few days recently where it was not safe for anyone to be outside for more than a few minutes, most days it is a good idea for children to play outside as long as they are appropriately dressed. Dressing in layers with waterproof snow gear including a coat, snow pants, hat, gloves and boots should keep them warm and dry. With snow on the ground, children can have fun building forts and snowmen — and don’t forget about sledding. The walk up the hill burns energy, and the ride down is just plain fun.

While I am not a huge proponent of video games, on the days that it is too cold to venture outside, or for additional activity, video games that require physical activity can be used. There are also several indoor play and gymnastic facilities around town that allow children to burn off energy indoors. The Madison with Kids website has a good list of many of them at http://madisonwithkids.com/open-play.

We are also fortunate to have many other opportunities for outdoor activities for the whole family. My family has enjoyed trying several new winter activities in recent years. Having grown up in the south, cold weather activities were not common. We have taken advantage of the Madison Parks cross-country ski trails. They offer ski and ice skating equipment rental at some of the parks for a nominal fee. We have also ventured onto the Elver Park ice rink. I need quite a bit of practice at both, but we had fun as a family spending the day outdoors. There are also several downhill ski places nearby.

Here are some other resources and events that your family might enjoy.

Madison Parks: Ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing. www.cityofmadison.com/parks
Shoe the Zoo: Snowshoe lessons with 50 percent of the fee benefitting the zoo, Jan. 25 and Feb. 9. http://www.vilaszoo.org (click on “Events”)

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/ask/dr-johnson/dr-dana-johnson-plenty-of-ways-to-stay-active-this/article_2785434d-ab3a-56d8-9da2-d132f71be51c.html#ixzz2rKrJf11Q

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