Now that Halloween has passed, and colder weather is coming, exercising outdoors becomes less and less appealing. For those who don’t want to go to a gym or who need a different kind of motivation, look to Mother Nature to keep you healthy.
The leaves are busy falling right now and while it might seem like a chore to pick them up, raking provides great exercise for you and fun for the kids! Raking leaves engages your abdominal, arm and back muscles while burning calories. Once raked, the leaves provide simple entertainment for the kids. Little ones love to run around and jump into them, and throw and push them around. This simply means you get to rake them again and get more exercise! The whole family gets to be active thanks to a yard full of leaves.
Snow in November is not unheard of in Colorado either. Snow also brings exercise and entertainment value. Building snowmen requires that you pack and roll large balls of snow, which can really increase your heart rate! Snow forts entertain the kids as well. Shoveling snow in your yard to form the snow fort delivers similar benefits to raking: stronger muscles and more calories expended. You will be your children’s hero, providing them hours of entertainment while getting some exercise at the same time.
In addition to snow, winter weather provides opportunity for other forms of exercise and fun. There are several local places to try ice-skating that include the entire family. Both outdoor and indoor skating provides health benefits like walking, but it is a low-impact activity, so it’s easy on the joints. While burning calories and having fun, you can also reduce your stress during skating!
Another fun winter activity is sledding. Walking through snow up hills and sledding down is a fun workout. Try carrying one of your kids up the hill to increase your energy expenditure! Sledding engages your leg muscles and increases your heart rate. By increasing your heart rate through regular exercise, you can improve your mood (via endorphins that are released during exercise), decrease stress, and improve your immune system, in addition to improving your heart health and increasing muscular strength. Exercise is a simple way to stay healthier and happier during the cold months ahead.
As always, with any exercise, moderation is key. If your body is not used to physical activity, start slow to avoid injuries that are common with raking and shoveling, and talk to your physician before beginning any exercise routine. Enlist your kids to help, and have fun being healthy together!
Written by Darby S. Petitt, Ph.D.