Logo Healthier Mummy
Mail
iStock_000015612321XSmall-2

How much exercise do children need in winter? 10 ways to boost their fitness

My three kids love playing outside, but they’re not so keen in winter – especially when the ground is getting a soaking or it’s bitterly cold. On those days, getting them to stretch their legs outdoors can feel like an awful lot of hard work.

First, you have to persuade them away from the puzzles/ sticker books/ TV. Then you must corral them into coats, socks and boots, before appeasing tantrums over hats and gloves. Finally, I have to break up fights over who’s going to open the front door first. By the time, we’re ready to go, my nerves are so jangly that I feel ready for a strong cuppa and a sit-down. And we haven’t even made it past the gate.

So how much exercise do children really need in winter?

Children aged between five and 18 years need 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day on most days, according to UK government recommendations – and yes, this is all year round. (Under the age of five, children should be moving almost continuously.)

‘Those 60 minutes of exercise can be accumulated in 10 minute bursts,’ says Dr Gavin Sandercock, a reader in sport and exercise, and an expert on childhood activity.

‘Unfortunately research shows that only 10 per cent of kids meet the government recommendations.’

I’m ashamed. I don’t think my kids always meet this target in winter, particularly when the weather is grim.

I asked the experts for help on how to fit more exercise into my children’s lives:

  1. Remember the basics

     To meet requirements, those 60 minutes should be mainly cardiovascular exercise – with children becoming out of breath and red in the face. Three times a week, they also need muscle and bone strengthening moves. It means that unfortunately that gentle stroll to the shops – while still good for your child – doesn’t count.Here are the best aerobic, muscle or bone strengthening activities for kids’ health (and check out the wintry indoor options too):
    – running, for example badminton, five-a-side indoor football, stuck-in-the-mud, dodgeball
    – cycling
    – active playground or sports hall games, like hopscotch and skipping
    – trampolining
    – scooting
    – gymnastics
    – martial arts
    – dancing
    – swinging on the climbing frame/ parallel bars
    – swimming. ‘It doesn’t matter if your child can’t swim very well,’ says Dr Sandercock. ‘Just getting in and out of the pool loads the bones and gets them out of puff.’


  2. Build activity into your daily life

    ‘Kids should be walking, running and scooting to get around,’ says Dr Sandercock. ‘Use bikes as transport if possible. If you live too far away from school to walk, cycle or scoot the whole journey, aim to walk or scoot the last half a mile.’

  3. Invest in the right kit for the great outdoors.

    ‘Once your kids are kitted out in layers and waterproof clothes, they will stay warm and dry, and won’t mind playing outside in the sleet, snow and rain,’ says Dr Donald Macgregor, consultant paediatrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

  4. Play indoor games

    If you’re stuck indoors, pat a balloon around the room – it can burn lots of calories. Also build miniature assault courses and try standing-on-one-leg competitions. Lie down and let little ones clamber over you for exercise.

  5. Be an enthusiastic role model

    Research shows that if one parent is active, a child is more likely to be fit too. ‘But parents don’t just need to be seen to exercise often – they need to show they enjoy it too,’ says Dr Sandercock. ‘So don’t complain about having to go to the gym.’If, like me, you’re not revelling in running as much this winter, don’t give up: Lost your running mojo? Try these 10 winter running tips.

  6. Let kids show off their PE skills 

    Children need practise to develop physical skills, like ball-throwing and catching. Give them the chance to demonstrate what they have been taught at school or nursery.

  7. Restrict screen time

    Research shows that the more screen time your child has, the more likely they are to be overweight. So limit the amount of time kids can spend watching TV, and playing on computers and tablets.

  8. Get off the bus a few stops earlier

    And turn that longer walk into a game. ‘For example, tell your kids that you’re going to get off the bus to run to the next stop, counting red cars as you go,’ says Dr Sandercock.

  9. Exercise earlier in the day at weekends.

    Get your kids in the habit of going out for a run-around, bike ride or to the playground in the mornings. ‘Morning exercise gets everyone’s “engines” going and pushes up metabolic rate for the rest of the day,’ says Dr Macgregor. ‘It also increases blood flow to your kids’ brains, boosting their mental performance.

  10. Shake up family winter walks

    If everyone groans when you suggest going out for a walk, offer a vigorous game of tig or a treasure hunt en route. ‘If they like climbing trees, hide some of the treasure within the branches for extra cardio activity,’ says Dr Macgregor. ‘Hare and hound is another game which gets kids’ hearts pumping on winter walks or bike rides. One parent pretends to be the hare and runs off, and the children have to make chase. It’s a great way to get kids running or cycling at speed.’ Good luck!

how much exercise do children need?

Read more:

Lost your running mojo? Try these winter running tips
Health resolutions for New Year: 9 ways to find wellness
My child doesn’t eat enough: 8 tips for fussy eating
How to talk to your child about dying

 


Comments (37)

  • Avatar

    Emma

    |

    Thank you for this! Fantastic reminder about letting the children run around outside in this cold weather … despite my reluctance!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      I often feel reluctant too. I’m no fan of standing in a chilly playground unless I have extra thermals on.

  • Avatar

    Model Mummy

    |

    Ah i have already read todays post as i am signed up for your newsletter!
    I make sure my little one gets out everyday come wind, rain or shine.

    Thanks for so many great posts!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      So glad that you get my newsletter. Well done with your brilliant all-weather fitness policy!

  • Avatar

    Hellie's Corner

    |

    Wow, I’m surprised by the fact that the 60 minutes has to be aerobic, it’s pretty hard to achieve when the weather is so awful. Roll on the spring :-)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      It is a lot, I agree. Luckily, you can break the 60 minutes up into bite-size chunks, or else it wd be even harder to achieve. We’re looking forward to spring in our house too.

  • Avatar

    Cass@frugalfamily

    |

    60 minutes a day – that’s sounds like a lot but I guess when you consider playtimes and lunch at school, walking the dog and anything else we do my two are probably not too far off x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      Well done, sounds like we should get a dog too

  • Avatar

    Fritha Strickland

    |

    this is so interesting, it’s so sad how little exercise kids get these days! x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      I know. It’s so much harder for me too to get enough exercise in the winter.

  • Avatar

    Astrid

    |

    These are all great tips. I’m not a parent but I could use some of htese tips myself.

  • Avatar

    Jenny

    |

    My children go mad if they don’t go out every day. Thanks for the tips.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      Mine go bonkers if they stay inside too long too. Though doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to get them out….

  • Avatar

    Ruth

    |

    Thank you so much! This is just what I needed. I am certain my kids aren’t getting as much exercise as is recommended during winter. Must try harder and the balloon game for indoors is a good idea! xx

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      And it sounds like it will be fun too.

  • Avatar

    Shell Louise

    |

    Some great tips there. The girls love going on their bikes to school and still like to be outside playing with their friends in the evening, even when it’s cold so hopefully they’re getting enough exercise. They love the Wii games as well. We only buy the ones that give them exercise!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      The Wii games are a great tip, thank you!

  • Avatar

    pinkoddy

    |

    I believe that the 60 minutes is on top of what they do at school. We walk/cycle to school and back, the kids have swimming lessons and we have a trampoline in the garden. I do need to use the SPOGO website more and make more of an active weekends rather than allowing it to be down-time screen time. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      Hiya, my experts told me that the 60 minutes includes activity they do at school. Sounds like you’re doing really well on your kids’ exercise quota already!

  • Avatar

    Astrid

    |

    Hmm, I don’t think my comment got through did it? I meant ot say these are all great tips, and I am not parent but I could use these tips myself.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      Your comment is safe and sound. I know what you mean re using some of these tips – I fancy the indoor assault course myself!

  • Avatar

    Swazi

    |

    My boy is 3 and definitely gets his share of exercise – and plenty to spare.

    I do think our being active as his parents does help that too.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      That’s great – sounds like you’re brilliant role models.

  • Avatar

    Laura @ Kneadwhine

    |

    Great ideas to get kids (and parents!) moving a bit more. We got D a scooter for Christmas, so he’s been quite easy to coax outside!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      Scooters are fab – we’re massive fans too. A brilliant way to get children moving fast from A to B.

  • Avatar

    Christina

    |

    Great advice. Thank you. It encouraged me to leave the buggy at home today and let my 2.5 year old scoot on the school run.

    Also, if I feel like the kids haven’t had enough exercise, we like to turn the music up and dance like nobody’s watching!!!

    Great blog.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      Oh yes, dancing – that’s a great tip, Christina. My kids like doing that too!

  • Avatar

    Gude @HodgePodgeCraft

    |

    Thanks for all the inspiring ideas! Mine are like puppies and go a bit bonkers if they don’t get outside every day…
    My youngest – Chops is only 21 months and although he loves walking, he does rather slow us down (and I still have to take the buggy in case he gets too tired and refuses to move). So I’ve been trying to allow more time to get where we need to in order to let him walk – he’s much happier that way & sleeps better too 😀

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      I know what you mean re the kids needing exercising. Mine can go properly bonkers too.

  • Avatar

    Kate Thompson

    |

    Brilliant post. It’s easy to allow children to stay inactive, especially in the winter but it doesn’t do them any favours.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      Thank you, yes, you do have to make a real effort to get them outdoors when the weather’s poor but they are so much nicer afterwards

  • Avatar

    Denise (mum on a mission for a better life)

    |

    Really great post! My three kids all take after their dad so they can eat whatever they like and they never gain a pound so I am guilty of not making them get enough exercise as I forget that exercise is more then just for weight loss. You have given me some good ideas to get everyone moving more. #BritmumsCarnival

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

      |

      So glad my blog has given you some ideas. Thanks for the lovely comment.

  • Avatar

    games for girls.net

    |

    Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my
    facebook group? There’s a lot of folks that
    I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know.
    Cheers

  • Avatar

    hot hand and feet

    |

    One of the more impressive blogs Ive seen. Thanks so much for keeping the internet classy for a change. Youve got style, class, bravado. I mean it. Please keep it up because without the internet is definitely lacking in intelligence.

  • Avatar

    busy women

    |

    Sweеt blօg! I found it while searchіng on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tiρѕ on how to get listed inn Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a whilе but I never seеm to get there!
    Thanks

    Also νisit my weЬ pɑge: busy women

Comments are closed