Once the snow starts to fall, most people curl up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and hibernate until spring. The last thing they want to do is brave the cold to go to the gym or grocery store. However, as tempting as it may be to bury yourself in blankets all winter long, it’s important to get up and move.
The same goes for your kids. Teenagers need at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week. At a minimum, they should engage in physical activity for 30 minutes, three days a week. Yet, many teens spend more than seven hours scrolling through social media or watching Netflix each day. Depending on where you live, that might leave only two or three hours of daylight to eat, spend time outside and exercise.
Therefore, it’s important — especially during the winter months — to minimize screen time and encourage physical activity. Here are a few ways you can do just that and help your teens stay fit all season long.
1. Take a Class
If you’re sick of being cooped up at home, consider taking a trip to your local gym or recreation center. Find a fitness class that interests both you and the kids, pile in the car and get your sweat on. Most centers offer various classes including yoga, pilates, rock climbing, zumba, kickboxing, tai chi and even water aerobics.
Be sure to sign up for a beginner’s class the first few times, especially if your kids have never gone to a public fitness class before. Attending a class can be intimidating, no matter how old you are. However, shy and self-conscious teens might have even more trouble mustering up the courage to go, so pick something simple or let them choose.
2. Learn a New Skill
You might also encourage your teens to try learning a new skill. Think outside the box and leave the arts and crafts behind. Suggest more physical skills activities like martial arts, weight lifting, tennis or even archery. Find someone who offers private lessons or learn the skill yourself and use it as bonding time with your kids.
Challenge your kids to set goals for themselves and master their new skill by the time spring rolls around. Emphasize small changes, but don’t push them too hard. After all, you want them to stay interested in the activity through winter, so pushing it on them won’t help.
3. Enjoy Winter Activities
Of course, if your kids aren’t up for the challenge of trying something new, you can always enjoy a few traditional winter activities. Build a snowman or igloo in the backyard. Make snow forts and have an epic snowball fight. You might even make a few snow angels or enlist the kids to shovel the driveway and sidewalk.
In the name of adventure, you could also take a weekend ski trip, go sledding or try snowboarding. Snowshoeing is another great option if you want to try something a little less strenuous.
4. Start a Fitness Challenge
When your child is playing a wintery sport or trying a new fitness class, they should be engaging in moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise most of the time. In other words, most — if not all — of their physical activities include cardio. However, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that physical activity should include muscle and bone strengthening exercises as well.
One way to incorporate this kind of exercise into your teen’s day is to start a fitness challenge. Make working out a sort of competition and a routine part of your lives by seeing who can do the most squats in a week or beat their personal record first. Set specific goals, award prizes and celebrate every tiny success. This strategy is especially effective if your kiddos have a competitive streak and would love nothing more than to beat their siblings.
5. Whip Up Healthy Snacks
More time inside means more time to rummage through the cupboards and snack unceasingly. And why wouldn’t you? The kitchen’s only 10 steps away at any given time. However, all those chips and cookies can add up over time. The obesity rate for teenagers has tripled within the last 40 years and, now, approximately 17% of U.S. youth are obese.
Make sure your child doesn’t turn into another statistic by keeping healthy snacks on hand. Stock the fridge with ready-to-eat snack packs filled with celery carrot sticks, grapes, apple slices and mozzarella sticks. Rid your home of sugary sweets and empty salty morsels, too, to keep everyone in your family on track to achieving their fitness goals.
Be a Good Role Model
Your kids watch you more closely than you’ll ever realize. Even as they grow, they’ll tend to mirror your behavior and base their definition of fitness on what you do to stay healthy and strong. Therefore, if you want your teens to stay fit this winter, you should first focus on yourself. Ditch old habits, fill your shopping cart with fruits and vegetables and make exercise part of your daily routine. The more your teens watch you make your health a priority, the more likely they’ll be to follow suit.
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