As it gets colder and the days get shorter, certain outdoor activities are no longer as appealing. Cannonballing into the pool or playing Frisbee at the beach? Brr!
Kids—and adults—need to stay active and find ways to have fun as the season changes. For most kids, homework, after-school activities, and other commitments can take a bite out of their availability to be active.
Although the seasons may change, kids’ needs to be active haven’t. It’s crucial for their physical, mental, and social health to move and have fun year-round. To that end, we’ve rounded up some fun ways to keep your kids moving while engaging in all the fun fall has to offer.
Today’s kids aren’t as active as they should be
This statement probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most parents. Studies show that children’s activity levels have steadily declined for years, even before the pandemic. While many COVID-based restrictions have been lifted, children are still not as active as before the pandemic.
Even when people are young, not getting enough exercise can affect their health. Staying active improves cardiorespiratory fitness, builds strong bones, and decreases the risk of heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Physical activity also helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How active should children be? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children ages 3 through 5 be physically active throughout the day. Children ages 6 through 17 should get 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous daily physical activity. This type of activity includes aerobic, like walking or running; muscle-strengthening, such as climbing and pushups; and bone-strengthening, like jumping or running.
Fortunately, kids can move during physical education classes and school sports teams. Still, even then, they might not get all the necessary exercise. That’s why it’s essential to look for ways to be active—while making it fun, so children will want to incorporate exercise into their daily lives.
Falling for fall activities
In autumn, activities that may have been too sweat-inducing to do in the summer are perfect for the cooler weather. Grab a jacket and a pair of gloves, and get ready to go.
Hiking is a great way to enjoy the falling leaves. Whether climbing hills and mountains or exploring nearby city greenway trails, hiking is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature. Looking for more than a scenic walk? Turn your hike into a scavenger hunt: challenge your young kids to spot a pine cone, squirrels, or animal tracks. Listen for birds, wind, and water. Give older kids a map and let them decide the direction. Remember to pack healthy snacks and water.
Start an evening walk club with your kids and track your steps with your Fitbit.
Join a Fitbit Challenge as a family or set a daily step goal.
Raking leaves can go from being a chore to a delight when your kids get to jump into the pile of leaves they made. Set a timer and try to finish raking before it goes off. Work in teams to divide the task and celebrate a job well done with a warm cup of cocoa or cider.
Find a local apple orchard and go apple picking. Or, go to a nearby pumpkin patch and find a future jack-o’-lantern. Visit a corn maze and wander (keep your young ones nearby so they can find you easily).
Play a family or neighborhood game of freeze tag or touch football. Create your own rules that make it easy to include everyone regardless of age or ability.
If you have a dog, have your kids walk the dog daily. If you don’t have one, volunteer your kids to walk a neighbor’s!
While playing outside during fall can be fun, sometimes it can be too cold, dark, or rainy for outdoor activities. If you have a garage, consider moving the car onto the street or driveway so your kids have room to play there during the day. (Be sure to remove any dangerous chemicals or tools beforehand).
Walk through a shopping mall. Many malls open their doors before store hours to allow for walking.
Consider memberships or day passes to the local gym or YMCA for a workout or swim at the indoor pool. Many gyms have minimum age requirements for using equipment, so check before you go.
Look at your town’s activity offerings. Park districts have classes your kids and family can drop in or register to participate.
Stuck in the house? Find exercise classes on YouTube. Take a dance break during commercials or homework. Have a speed cleaning challenge. Or, try doing a quick workout video in the Fitbit app (join Premium for even more workout content).
While being able to touch your toes is important, this flexibility is about finding ways to move ingrained in your kids’ lives. For them to have a lifelong activity habit, it must be enjoyable. If they don’t like sports, maybe a dance or yoga class is more appealing. Go old school with hula hoops, chalk for hopscotch, and jump ropes. Find more unique workout ideas.
Look for minor tweaks to add movement. Perhaps your kids can walk from school instead of taking the bus or getting a ride. Or maybe the kids play outside when they first come home from school and do homework later when it’s dark, instead of the usual “homework first” rule.
Whatever steps you take (see what we did there?) to encourage your children’s activity, remember that your behavior will influence them the most. If they see you finding ways to keep moving that you enjoy, they will more likely make activity an essential part of their lives.
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