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Resist the urge to hibernate this winter

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/12/2015 (1630 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Just a few short weeks ago, my eight-year-old daughter looked outside, glum-faced and devastated at the lack of snow. Her attitude is likely not shared by many adults who, I would guess, almost unanimously regard the milder-than-usual start of winter with a mixture of relief and jubilation.

Of course, any veteran Winnipegger knows the mild weather won't last. It can't. The snowdrifts are surely on their way, as are the frosty temperatures for which this Prairie city is famous. And we dread those days in much the same fashion as we would an impending root canal or colonoscopy.

But, looking at my daughter, I couldn't help but wonder when we lost our excitement over the changing of the season. And how do we regain that childlike wonder and ability to see snow and ice as an opportunity for fun and activity?

Though we often like to brag that we as hardy Winnipeggers can take it, research shows when the temperature drops and the days grow short, most of us tend toward hibernation indoors. We see winter as a barrier to activity and, as parents, we are reluctant to spend time outdoors in the cold to supervise or play with our children.

It's no secret that as they develop, children look to us as role models.

Here again, the research is clear, according to the ParticipAction report card on physical activity. "When school-aged children perceive at least one parent to be physically active, they are more likely to meet prescribed physical fitness standards," the report card says. It also notes children with families that are supportive and believe strongly in the importance of physical activity are also more likely to develop physical literacy -- the ability to move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments.

So this winter, it's time to rejuvenate, not hibernate. But how?

Here are a few tips to get you started:

First, pick an activity to try this winter. Finding an outdoor physical activity you enjoy will help you stick with it. From organized winter sports to making the most of an unplanned opportunity to get outside with the family to build a snowman or make snow angels, winter has a lot of opportunities that aren't available in other seasons.

Set up an activity calendar. When we schedule things such as a haircut or dentist's appointment, we give them value. The same holds true when we make time for outdoor activity in all seasons. Be active, and break up sedentary habits.

Use an activity suggestion jar to which every member of the family can contribute. Whether you have a large, traditional family or a close circle of friends, sharing ideas and experiences adds a touch of fun and variety to your winter activities.

Look for opportunities. Winnipeg really is a winter wonderland, with 63 community centres, 13 arenas offering free public skating each week and a host of other outdoor facilities and experiences from which to choose. No matter your location or income level, the potential for outdoor activity abounds. Be open to the countless possibilities.

Revisit your youth. My father skied avidly as a teen and young adult but didn't return to the sport until he was in his mid- to late 50s when my sisters and I took up downhill skiing. The lesson? At some point when we were young, each of us enjoyed some form of winter activity. There's no better time than now to rekindle those interests and reclaim an active lifestyle.

And remember, making the choice to be active this winter doesn't have to be regimented, expensive or complicated. If you have ever tobogganed down a hill and had to climb back to the top five or six times, you can testify to the fact it's a great workout, and a great way to laugh and have fun with friends and family. Explore the possibilities that work best for you and your family.

This year, choose to put aside any grumbling about the cold. Greater physical and mental health lie just outside your door. And that's a warm and comforting thought.


Kristine Hayward is a physical activity promotion co-ordinator with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.


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