Richie Racoon Swimming
Encourage Winter Activity


Alison Hanna, RD, LD
USC School of Medicine
Department of Pediatrics

How can I encourage my children to be more active during winter months?

A fresh new year is an ideal time to ask your children about their interests. Get their help in choosing something they like to do. When you make fitness fun, your family will want to participate.

If Friday usually means pizza night at your house, now is the time to add a new tradition. Make Friday or Saturday your "Family Fitness Night" and choose a fun activity that everyone can enjoy. Consider Zumba®, yoga, Pilates or an active video or dance game. Get your children involved in creating your own in-home circuit training course, where you move from "station" to "station" doing short bursts of specific moves. If you have stairs, use these as one of the circuit training areas. Hula hoops, jump ropes and mini trampolines are a great way to keep up cardio fitness. Young children can draw hopscotch boards outside with sidewalk chalk.

Make sure there are times — especially during dinner — when all adults and children are expected to "unplug" from their electronic gadgets. Use this time to connect with your family.

Set a limit on the amount of screen time your child is allowed each day and stick to it. Two hours should be the maximum for all screen time. By not placing a television or computer in your child's room, you have more control. You also can set fitness goals so that television is viewed while getting treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical time. The website has a great log to track screen time and one for tracking your family's activity goals.

A creative way to reduce screen time is to plan family activities that do not involve a screen. Go for an after-dinner walk as a family. On days when one child has a sports event, take the entire family and do something active at appropriate times during the event, such as walking around the field together.

By making it a priority to look for opportunities to be more active, you can help your children make fitness an important part of their own routines.

Most of us already have plenty of equipment at home, whether it is DVDs, fitness equipment or gaming systems that have fitness accessories. If a friend or relative has a piece of fitness equipment that isn't being used, you may be able to borrow or swap gear to add variety to your family's workout options.

Start Fresh

Now is the time to dust off your equipment and start fresh. Think about why you haven't used your equipment and look for ways to eliminate any obstacles that would prevent you and your family from using these tools.

Plan to succeed by rearranging part of a room to make the area more inviting and more conducive to exercise. When the room is arranged so that you can exercise comfortably, you are more likely to enjoy this part of your day. Think about new ways to use your carport, driveway or garage for family fitness activities. Could you set up a ping pong table in part of the garage?

Getting fit doesn't have to be expensive. If you or your children received gift cards over the holidays you could purchase a set of exercise bands or an exercise ball. Exercise bands and balls come with instructions for a number of exercises and they are lightweight and easy to store. Purchase or borrow some gently used free weights. You also can lift canned goods and other household items, like liquid laundry detergent jugs. These jugs come in various sizes and canned be rinsed and filled with sand to make homemade, reusable weights. 

If you have a gym membership, but have neglected working out during the busy holiday season, take advantage of the climate controlled atmosphere and equipment gyms offer. If you don't belong to a gym, explore other options, such as a church recreation center. Many churches now have gyms, walking tracks, basketball courts and great indoor spaces.

Consider indoor sports leagues and other indoor activities, such as roller rinks or bowling alleys. Planning a family activity at an indoor sports complex can be a reward for achieving fitness or weight loss goals or for getting good grades.

Quick Tips

Here are some tips for family fitness and nutrition:

  • Take time to establish a plan and goals for your family, with realistic steps to meet those goals.
  • Purge your home of snacks and any leftover holiday treats and replace with healthier options like fruits, veggies, yogurt and whole grain crackers.
  • Downsize your portions and eat on a regular schedule. Visit for examples of healthy portion sizes. Begin each day with a healthy breakfast.
  • Don't reward your child with sweet treats or sedentary video games. Go for active games and other non-food rewards instead. Give verbal praise and encouragement.
  • Explore low-cost local programs such as the Good Bodies program offered by the University of South Carolina for children and adults:
  • Let your body be your equipment. Make an effort to do calorie-burning movement each day.Ask Children's Hospital is provided as an educational service. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Contact your primary care physician or other qualified health care provider for specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. 

About Alison Hanna, RD, LD
Alison Hanna joined the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics in 2009. She provides outpatient nutrition services for children who are under the care of physicians of the Pediatric Specialty Clinics. Her baby daughter, Catherine, is her favorite running partner and enjoys frequent stroller runs.