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10 ways to keep young children active in extreme weather

Cold weather can make it difficult for children to get much needed exercise.
Cold weather can make it difficult for children to get much needed exercise.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

With the "Polar Vortex" sweeping over our area it may seem impossible to keep young children active without unnecessarily exposing them to this extreme weather. Temperatures in the single digits seem to have the ability to activate the "stay in the house, eat, and watch television" control centers in our brains.

Physical activity is often replaced with more indoor sedentary behaviors such as watching television, using electronic devices and playing video games. Extreme weather can act as deterrent to engaging in outdoor activities. Taking a leisurely stroll in your neighborhood probably doesn't sound especially enjoyable in negative temperatures. There’s something to say for being able to feel your toes while you walk!

It is recommended that children engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis to maintain a healthy weight. However, with typical everyday time constraints combined with uncooperative weather it may take days to actually meet this requirement! With physical education taking a back seat in school curriculum there is limited opportunities for youth to be physically active.

Spending more time indoors may also increase food consumption in some children, surpassing daily caloric needs. With the kitchen just a room away food is more regularly accessible. It is more difficult to get a snack while biking on a trail than it is when watching yet another rerun on the Disney channel or Nickjr. Consuming extra calories combined with lack of physical activity or exercise will ultimately lead to weight gain in an already at risk population.

Don’t wait for Old Man Winter to get the hint that he is no longer welcome. Here are a few ways to get kids moving in these frigid temperatures without the risk of frostbite or hypothermia!

1 .Get involved and be an active participant. Studies have shown that parental encouragement can have an effect on a child's participation in exercise. Try and find a workout DVD that is appropriate for you and your child's fitness level.

2. Play a video game. Video games are worlds away from the Pac-Man and Donkey Kong we grew up with. The new motion controlled game systems like Wii and Kinect create great opportunities to combine exercise and and recreational time.

3. Just dance! With the today's technology music is accessible just about anywhere. So turn on your iPod or play your iTunes from your iPhone and start grooving. A good dance session will get children moving.

4. Get your grocery shopping done. Increase walking time by going down every aisle then working your way back. Use the "Customer in Training" shopping carts to make it fun. Be sure to avoid the cookie aisle!

5. Do some "Spring" cleaning. Having kids assist with chores around the house is a great way to get them off the couch while helping you get the house clean. Have children do age appropriate chores that require some lifting, bending, and walking up and down stairs.

6. Have a play date. Clear the living room and let the kids have at it! Play dates can help get kids moving while giving parents some adult time. Be sure to remove furniture and other objects that can cause injury. Turn off the television and confiscate electronic devices!

7. Talk with daycare providers. Find out what your child is doing everyday. Is there daily television viewing? Also inquire about what activities children are engaged in.

8. Utilize your local community centers. Go to your local YMCA to get kids engaged in physical activity while creating opportunities for socialization with peers. Sign your child up for swimming classes or other indoor sports and recreation that you just can't do outside in a foot of snow!

9. Take a walk at the mall. Local malls are a great place to get a bit of exercise. They are temperature controlled havens from the outside elements. With long corridors and plenty to see an hour of walking can pass before you know it. Try not to pass by the Cinnabon.

10. Find an indoor play area. Indoor play areas can be a lifesaver in inclement weather. They are usually safe and well contained. Children exercise in bouts of high intensity physical activity making this an ideal atmosphere. Just be sure to bring a bottle of hand sanitizer!

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