Experts says children should stay physically active for at least one hour per day and time spent in colder weather may offer even more health benefits. Learn more about how cooler temperatures benefit children's health and well-being as well as indoor alternatives for those freezing temperatures.

Child Health | 25 days ago

Healthy Together: Staying Active in the Cold May Benefit Your Child's Health

Experts says children should stay physically active for at least one hour per day and time spent in colder weather may offer even more health benefits. Learn more about how cooler temperatures benefit children's health and well-being as well as indoor alternatives for those freezing temperatures.

With winter comes shorter days and colder temperatures -- limiting time spent outdoors and outdoor activity options for children. Yet, experts say keeping kids' heart rates up and participating in one hour or more of physical activity per day is key for maintaining good health, regardless of time of year. While low temperatures often limit our activities to the indoors, there are benefits of cold weather when it comes to children's health, development and well-being.

Builds up immune systems

Unfortunately, it's impossible to keep children completely away from all viruses or bacteria that can make them ill, especially during the winter months when they seem to be more prevalent. However, according to the CDC, allowing children to come into contact with some of these pests and bacteria in a natural way can actually make them less likely to develop autoimmune disorders and allergies.

"Exercising outdoors means you can avoid gyms, as all the bacteria and germs that are brought in get recycled repeatedly through air vents," says Timothy J. Cirone, MAEd, LAT, ATC, wellness coordinator with HEALTHWORKS. "Despite common misconceptions about staying indoors to avoid a cold, you may be more likely to pick up an illness from the gym than outdoors."

Provides Vitamin D

"When we stay indoors during the winter, we are also missing out on necessary vitamins, like Vitamin D, that the outdoor environment gives us," says Kaitlyn Werner RDN, LDN, registered dietician nutritionist with Atrium Health. "Even though the sun is not as warm in the winter, it's important that your children get outside for at least 10-15 minutes to get their daily dose of Vitamin D."

Vitamin D promotes changes in mood, energy levels, and memory by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, essential to children's health and well-being.

Werner explains the sun is a natural alternative for kids who may otherwise not eat a lot of foods with Vitamin D, such as fatty fish.

Opportunities for better exercise

Playing outside also provides children with something many children don't get enough of anymore – exercise – and exercising during the winter can be even more beneficial.

"Because your body is working harder to regulate its core temperature, your metabolism revs up and your body burns more calories and fat to produce energy for your workout," says Werner. "By challenging yourself in the cold weather, you are strengthening your heart, lungs and circulatory system, thereby improving your overall health."

Feeling more energized

Werner explains exercise also helps boost feel-good endorphins which elevate your mood and make you happier.

"As the body works harder to stay warm, the number of endorphins produced also increases, leaving you with a stronger sense of happiness and lightness following physical activity in the cold," says Cirone.

Knowing when to stay inside

Although playing outside in cold weather can be a safe and enjoyable experience, Cirone warns it's important to be able to note signs of potential injury, such as frostbite and hypothermia, and recommends checking your local weather before planning activities outside.

If outdoor activities are not an option due to weather, Werner suggests engaging in cost-effective indoor physical activities, such as setting up a scavenger hunt, a dance party, DIY balance beam, indoor bowling with empty water bottles and a tennis ball, stair climbing, or indoor basketball with a rolled-up sock and bucket.

By eating more fruits and vegetables, being physically active for at least one hour per day, limiting recreational screen time, and avoiding sugary drinks, your family can join the 5210 League and make the pledge to be healthy together. Learn more about the 5210 League.