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Wintertime exercise can require creativity

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By RALPH HANCE

With fewer hours of daylight, colder temperatures and more wet weather, winter is often when “couch-potato syndrome” kicks in for many of us.
Getting the proper amount of physical activity may require creative thinking, especially for children not involved in school sports programs. 
Children should engage in at least one hour of physical activity every day. This does not have to happen all at one time. Just 10 minutes of physical activity at a time can result in health benefits.
There are types of exercise – aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening. Each of these is important for growing children, and their daily physical activity can combine any of these. 
Aerobics – running, walking, bicycling and swimming – should take up most of the exercise hour. These work large-muscle groups at one time and get the heart rate up, providing cardio-pulmonary benefits.
Muscle strengthening activities include exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups.
Bone strengthening exercises focus on putting a little pressure on bones, and may include stair climbing or lifting and carrying weights.
A good goal for children is to participate in these activities at least three days a week – even when the weather outside is frightful. It’s even better when adults join in, and will provide health benefits for them, as well.
Exercise “equipment” often can be found around the home and provide opportunities for family fun and exercise.
For instance:
Stair climbing. Children 6 and older can participate; a set of stairs and a stop watch are all that’s needed.
Take turns to see how fast you can go up and back down the stairs. Challenge family members to beat the fastest time.
Push-ups challenge. Children 5 and older can compete to see who will be the push-ups champion of the week.
Challenge each other to see who can do the most push-ups in one minute from week to week, and you will be amazed at the increase of strength in the whole family. This also works with sit-ups and crunches.
Chinese jump-rope. Children 6 and older can participate, using basic materials in this game is fun for everyone.
Tie a rope around the legs of two chairs set approximately 4 feet apart. Take turns jumping into and out of the ropes between the chairs. After everyone has a turn, raise the rope a bit. Start with easy combinations, such as jumping in and out of the ropes, and then let everyone make up a different pattern.
Some examples: two feet jump in, one foot jumps out; or two feet jump in, both feet jump out on either side of the rope.
A good exercise program is important for the physical health of growing children, and can be a positive motivational tool to boosts our moods and energy levels during a traditionally less-active time of year. 

Ralph Hance is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for 4-H and youth development. This week’s source:  Nicole Peritore, coordinator, Get Moving Kentucky.