Winter is here, which (depending on where you live) may mean months of rain, snow, and bone-chilling cold. A perfect excuse for adults and kids to limit their exercise to reaching for the TV remote, clicking on the mouse, or maneuvering the joystick, right? Wrong! Don’t let the miserable weather derail your family’s physical fitness plan — there are plenty of options both inside and outside the house to keep everyone active during the winter months.

Staying fit is important for children, both physically and mentally. Many studies have shown a link between physical activity and academic achievement. An inactive lifestyle can also lead to health problems such as high blood pressure and joint problems.

Create an active zone

If you have a “no running in the house” rule, you may have to amend that for the winter months. Try setting aside an area free of breakable and dangerous objects where kids can move around easily. If this is a change in house policy, explain that while the old rules still apply in most of the house, for the sake of everyone’s physical health, you are designating one area where they are free to run, jump, and roll around.

Organize indoor activities

Once an area is cleared of sharp corners, keep your kids active and busy by organizing a range of indoor activities. Turn the music up for a game of musical chairs or make up different dance routines. There are plenty of individual games and activities that will keep their heart rate up, such as playing freeze tag or twirling hula hoops. If you have forgotten the rules, or want some new ideas, check out Games Kids Play.

Still have a DVD player hooked up to your TV? If your kids seem hooked to the TV as well, slide in an exercise DVD. Many are made especially for children, and many are available for check out at the library.

Take advantage of classes

Sign up for parent and child fitness classes that the whole family can enjoy together. Martial arts classes, such as karate or aikido, can help build self-discipline and self-confidence. Yoga can enhance flexibility and concentration. Many postures are named and modeled after animals, which keeps the poses playful and fun for children.

Outings to indoor facilities

Leave the house and venture to an indoor facility. Find an indoor pool in your area to swim laps, or play a pool game such as Marco Polo or water tag. Make sure to check the pool’s schedule to find out when the pool is open for swimming laps and when it is open for free swim. Bundle up and go to an indoor ice-skating rink or roller rink.

Active games

You don’t need too much room to play indoor games and your family will be having so much fun they won’t even realize they are exercising. Rose Kennedy, the author of The Family Fitness Fun Book: Healthy Living for the Whole Family , has gathered an array of indoor games in her book. Here are a few of her favorites:


A variation on hide-and-seek. This game can be played indoors or outside. One person hides. Everyone else tries to find him. When you find the person who is hiding, you hide with him. The last one left looking gets to be the one to hide in the next round of the game.

Sneaky patty

One person sits blindfolded with her back to the group. A teddy bear or other object is placed behind her or under her chair. Play some music while members of the group, one by one, on their hands and knees, try to sneak up and steal the bear. The blindfolded person, while remaining seated, tries to tag the person who is stealing the bear. If he is successful, that person switches places and puts the blindfold on. The music stops and the blindfolded one tries to guess who stole the bear.

A variation on musical chairs

Line up one fewer chair than there are players. One person is the “caller” (a good role for a teenager). The caller says something like, “I am especially grateful for people with blue eyes.” Then all the people with blue eyes have to move while the caller takes one chair away. The person left standing is out. The next round the caller might say, “I am especially grateful for people wearing shoes that tie,” and those people move. The last person left standing gets to be the caller in the next round of the game.

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