The hectic holiday season is on the horizon and between all the festive activities, it can feel hard to find the time to be physically active. But from reducing stress to burning off all that delicious baking, the benefits of being active at this time of year are more needed than ever.
“The holidays are a busy time and we have a tendency to want to stay inside and be all snuggly, but it’s really important to stay active,” says ParticipACTION exercise scientist Leigh Vanderloo. “There’s been a huge amount of research showing that physical activity is linked to a number of mental health benefits; it helps reduce stress and anxiety, and everyone can use a little bit of help with that, especially over the holiday season.”
For parents, it’s especially important to ensure your kids get the recommended minimum one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. “[Being active] gives kids the opportunity to release some energy and it helps them regulate their emotions,” says Vanderloo. “It’s a win-win; it’s better for the child and it’s also much better for the whole family.”
If you’re having difficulty finding the time or the motivation to get active with your family, here are six ideas to get you in gear.
Try a new winter sport or activity
From curling to snowshoeing, there are lots of winter activities to enjoy in BC. If you’re lucky enough to get some snow in your own backyard, you can also have a snowball fight, build a snowman or create big snowbanks, also known as shoveling the driveway.
Integrate activity into family visits
It’s tempting to put out a plate of cookies and catch up with relatives over coffee, but planning an activity with family is a great way to bond, get in your visit and be active at the same time. Even if you’re socializing with people of different ages and physical abilities, there are options. Go bowling or head into the forest or to the beach for a stroll and a scavenger hunt for the kids. “If you’re a parent, this is a great opportunity for you to model active behaviours to your kids in a way that shows them that being active is enjoyable,” says Vanderloo. “This should be the norm, not the exception.”
Start a new family tradition built around fitness
Families are built around traditions, so why not build your traditions around fitness? Go to a Christmas tree farm to chop down your own tree, plan an annual ski trip or even just go for a walk around the neighbourhood and look at the Christmas lights every evening after dinner. “Even a 15-minute walk around the block is an excellent step in the right direction and it’s an easy way to squeeze activity into your daily schedule,” says Vanderloo. “Doing it as a family can enhance bonding and if the kids see that it’s something their parents want to do, they’re more likely to adopt it into their own lives and maintain it throughout their lifespan.”
Look for special holiday events at recreation centres
Many recreation centres host special events over the holidays, whether it’s a skate with Santa or a swim in support of the food bank. Kids love to see their favourite hangouts in a new light —especially decorated with Christmas lights — and these events offer a great opportunity to meet up with some friends from school without having to host a play date at your house.
Work harder while doing chores
Ever notice how many more chores you have to do over the holidays? From tidying the house to doing the dishes, you’re probably spending more time on your feet. “With family visiting, you’re going to be doing a lot more housecleaning,” says Vanderloo. “If you’re shopping, you’re getting in those extra steps trying to meander your way through the busy malls.” Not to mention all that shoveling if you get hit with a snowstorm. Get your heart pumping faster by working harder while doing your chores or adding a twist. For example, go up and down on your toes while you’re washing the dishes to stretch your calves.
Get creative indoors
If the weather is really keeping you inside, turn your living room into a yoga studio or have a dance party. There are lots of online resources to help guide your activity, including DoYogaWithMe, which offers hundreds of free yoga classes, and Learn to Dance, where you can sample everything from hip-hop to line dancing.
For more inspiration and ideas on how to stay active this winter, visit ParticipACTION.com. Here’s to Happy Holidays filled with new active traditions and festive family fun!