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Tips for Fall Family Fitness

Family Playing in Leaves

When the weather turns cold it’s tempting to stay inside and huddle around the television. More importantly, children are more inclined to play video games than to play outside. Don’t let the chilly fall weather across much of the U.S. keep you and your family from being active and enjoying the outdoors.

In order to focus on the fitness of you and your family, the following is a list of fun fall and winter activities for your family to try!

  1. Go for a hike at a park near you to get some aerobic fitness while exploring nature. Here’s a bonus activity to incorporate into your hike:
    • As you walk, have your child or children pick up their favorite leaves or rocks
    • Then have each leaf represent a different muscle and bone strengthening exercise for an obstacle course. For example, one leaf could represent 10 jumping jacks, one could represent 5 push-ups, etc.
    • For the grand finale, make a leaf pile together and let the kids jump over, and then into the pile of leaves! You can jump in too if you’re up to it!
  2. Take a walking tour through your city or neighborhood to see all the holiday lights and decorations. If you’re holiday shopping at the same time, let your child help you carry the shopping bags for some extra muscle strengthening.
  3. Go ice skating! Ice skating offers aerobic fitness as well as muscle and bone strengthening. It can even help to improve balance, though it’s a good idea to work on your balance before you get on the ice. Some ideas for practicing balance include having your child stand on one leg while brushing their teeth, and doing yoga balance poses together, such as the tree pose. It’s very important to follow good safety practices while ice skating: children should wear a properly fitted helmet, new ice skaters should wear wrist guards, and ensure ice skates fit well. Only skate on approved ice-never skate on bodies of water that have not been specifically approved for skating, no matter how solid the ice may look.
  4. Visit the playground. As long as your child wears enough layers to stay warm, there’s no reason why you can’t go to the playground all year long! Create obstacle courses and scavenger hunts in your local park or explore a new park by scooting or biking for aerobic exercise for you and your child. Swinging and climbing on the monkey bars is good for muscle strengthening, while jumping rope and hop scotch are activities to keep their bones strong. Keep things fun by exploring new playgrounds or parks in your area.

In addition, as you’re planning some fall weather fun – or fun for any season – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following amounts of physical activity for children:

  1. 60 minutes a day of aerobic fitness activities, such as running, biking, riding a kick scooter, dancing, climbing stairs and playing sports.
  2. 60 minutes of muscle strengthening activities at least 3 times a week, such as gymnastics, climbing at the playground, doing sit-ups and/or push-ups, and carrying things around at home. This is an excellent opportunity to let children help with chores, such as carrying a full laundry basket from the laundry room to another part of the house, or bringing the garbage cans to the corner of your home for collection.
  3. 60 minutes of bone strengthening activities at least 3 times a week, such as jumping, running, dancing, and playing sports. These can be included in a child’s daily amount of aerobic fitness, as long as the activity includes some form of weight-bearing.

That may sound like a lot, but don’t worry- getting in the recommended amounts of exercise is easier than you think. Did you know that there are 21 different playgrounds in Central Park alone?  Check the Parks Department in your area for local recreational sites.  If you’re in the New York City, Boston, Connecticut, Westchester, Long Island, Philadelphia, New Jersey, or Los Angeles areas, Mommy Poppins is a great family resource for fun things to do and new areas to explore together.

Lisa Drefus is a pediatric physical therapist at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center within Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion.

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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.