By GRACE DEROCHA
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Cold weather makes it tempting to stay indoors and hibernate for the winter. However, despite the urge to stay bundled up inside, being inactive for months at a time can have harmful effects on our physical and mental health.
For children and adults, long periods of immobility can lead to weight gain and a higher risk of chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
In addition, lack of physical activity can be a catalyst for seasonal depression, lack of energy and higher stress for everyone in the household. Fortunately, there are a variety of fun, convenient ways to get the family moving both inside and outside of the house to ensure a happy, healthy winter.
Explore Indoor Adventures
Just like staying active doesn’t have to mean enduring hours in the cold, being indoors in the winter doesn’t have to mean switching into hibernation-mode. In fact, playing inside has been proven to increase creativity in children and, in most cases, lowers the risk for injury.
• Glow-Stick Dance Party: Hit the lights in the basement or living room, grab glow sticks and turn on a playlist of the family’s favorite tunes. Dancing is great for our heart, muscles and brain.
• Furniture Fun: Take advantage of household items to build forts or create an obstacle course, the possibilities are endless.
• Family Workout Classes: Organize a yoga routine before bed or start a follow-the-leader-style workout during which each family member can take turns leading.
Incorporate Healthy Screen Time
There are fun, healthy ways to integrate cell phones, video games and the television into family workouts. A variety of free mobile applications offer exercises and quick tips. There are also customizable activities to accommodate each family’s style.
• Indoor Scavenger Hunt: Make use of cell phones to provide hints, solve puzzles or answer online questions that lead to “clues.” Exercise the brain while getting in some steps. Taking pictures of the hunt or videotaping activities make lasting memories.
• Active Video Games: Investing in a game system that functions based on movement can motivate the family to engage in a friendly competition while getting active indoors.
• Movie Charades: Instead of sitting on the couch to watch a movie, encourage the family to act out different scenes together. Consider musicals, dance movies, action or sport-focused flicks.
Go Back to Basics
Sometimes the answer to getting active during the winter months is as simple as traditional options. While moving around indoors is doable, getting outside gives everyone more space, provides some much-needed vitamin D and can cure any case of cabin-fever.
• Winter Sports: Whether it’s taking a group lesson or giving winter sports a shot without instruction, encourage the family to try snowboarding, snow-shoeing, skiing, etc.
• Snow Fun: Bundle up and get the family outside to build a snowman, go sledding or start a snowball fight. Everyone is guaranteed to break a sweat with simple, staple winter activities.
• Delegating Duties: Use indoor and outdoor responsibilities to get the family moving every day. Shoveling, vacuuming, taking out the trash and even picking up bedroom messes are all great ways to get some activity in and take of the day’s to-do list.
For more fun, innovative ways to keep the family moving this winter, be sure to check the area’s local event calendar or go to www.AHealthierMichigan.org.
(Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, go to AHealthierMichigan.org.)