Your Health

Be a role model to help kids become more active

Photo of three kids on a toboggan.

Photo of Thania Martis. THANIA MARTIS
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, March 8, 2019

It’s no secret that young people tend to spend a good chunk of their leisure time watching TV, playing video games or engaging in some other type of screen-based activity.

That is especially true during the coldest months of winter. 

This is not a good thing. As most parents know, these forms of entertainment can also undermine a child’s health. Studies show that children who spend more than two hours a day on their screens are twice as likely to be overweight than those who are more active.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are plenty of ways for kids to be active outdoors during the winter, especially now that the warmer weather associated with March is on the way. 

The latest forecast shows that we’ll soon be basking in the relatively warmer temperatures. That means the weather will be perfect for many winter pastimes.

So how active does your child have to be? 

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines suggest that children between the ages of five and 17 should accumulate about 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity every day. Doing so will help your child improve their health, do better in school,  have fun playing with friends, feel happier, maintain a healthy body weight, improve their self-confidence, and learn new skills.

Still, the question remains: how can you as a parent get your child interested in going outdoors for some exercise when they would rather spend more time on their screen? Here are a few tips:

  • Start by making sure your kids are in a position to enjoy the outdoors experience. Don’t send them out when it is too cold to do anything but freeze.
  • Make sure your kids (especially younger ones) are properly dressed. Experts recommend dressing your child in layers of clothing which will help trap the warmer air. And, needless to say, they should have a warm hat, mitts and boots.
  • Be a role model. Experts say one of the most important things you can do to get your kids to be more active is to join them. Studies show that children learn a lot about a healthy lifestyle from the example set by their parents. When children see that physical activity can be fun and their parents support an active lifestyle, they will become more active.
  • Make a date. Set a regular time for family outdoor activity.
  • Go with the flow. Let your kids drive the decision making when it comes to deciding what to do, as long as it is safe. Kids are much more likely to be physically active if they enjoy being physically active.
  • Talk to your kids about the benefits of physical activity. Don’t assume your child already knows why it is important to be active. When you are out and about, strike up a conversation about why being active will help them maintain their health or do better at school.   

There are, of course, plenty of outdoor activities to choose from at this time of year. One of the most popular is skating. In addition to burning off energy, skating also helps kids develop and enhance their muscle strength and endurance and improves balance, posture, flexibility, and co-ordination.

There is no shortage of places to go skating in Winnipeg. Many neighbourhoods have at least one outdoor rink. In addition, there are also pond skating rinks at Kildonan Park, Harbourview Recreation Complex, St. Vital Park and Assiniboine Park. You can find a list of skating rinks near you by visiting and searching: skating rinks. And don’t forget, you can still head out on the Red River Mutual Trail at The Forks.

Other popular activities include tobogganing, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding, just to name a few. Go online to learn more about these activities in Winnipeg.  

One more tip: No matter what activity you do, capture the winter fun on camera or video. Then gather the family together for some hot chocolate while you watch your pictures or video. Doing so not only warms the body, but contributes to warm connections with your family as well.

Thania Martis is a consultant with the Manitoba Parent Line, a telephone service of the Provincial Health Contact Centre at Misericordia Health Centre. If you have parenting questions, call 204-945-4777, or toll free: 1-877-945-4777. This column was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, March 8, 2019.

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