Get the Whole Family Involved in Outdoor Winter Activities

Get the Whole Family Involved in Outdoor Winter Activities

Happy Mother and Son Sledding down the Hill

Don’t feel stuck indoors when the weather gets cold. You can get a good workout regardless of the temperature outside with cold weather activities. You can even get the children involved so you can all make winter memories while breaking a sweat. But when getting outside this winter, it’s important to know exactly how cold weather affects the body. There are a few health and safety tips to remember, which we’ll tell you about here, and we’ll share some cold weather activities the entire family can enjoy.


How Cold Weather Affects the Body

To learn more about how cold weather affects the body I spoke with Tracy Zaslow, MD, medical director of Children’s Orthopedic Center (COC) and Sports Medicine and Concussion Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Did you know holiday food and festivities are not the only things packing on the winter pounds? Dr. Zaslow believes there is a connection between the cold weather and an inactive lifestyle. When it's cold outside people are less inclined to do outdoor activities and tend to be less active. When living a less active lifestyle, metabolism tends to be slower. Body metabolism is how the body burns calories to provide energy for bodily function.

Additionally, cold weather in general may have additional impacts on the body. A recent study discovered that brown fat cells (present in babies and in the upper chest and neck of some adults) burn more energy when the body is exposed to cold. However, experts say recommendations for physical activity remain the same during the cold months:

  • Children: One hour of physical activity per day
  • Adults: At least 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week

Activity and exercise is critical in maintaining a healthy metabolism to burn off excess calories that would otherwise be stored as fat.


Health and Safety Tips for Cold Weather

Regardless of winter activity, health, and safety should always be a priority for you and your child. Dr. Zaslow recommends these health and safety tips:

  1. Prepare your child for cold weather. Bundle up appropriately to prevent hypothermia (really low body temperature) in extremely cold weather. Don’t forget to protect fingers with gloves when playing in the snow.
  2. Prepare for activity. Take 15 to 20 minutes to warm-up you and your child’s body for cold weather exercise. Light jogging should be enough to get the blood flowing throughout the body. Do range of motion exercises like windmills or squats to warm up the joints and muscles because static stretching (e.g. bending to touch your toes) when the muscles are cold is not good for the body.
  3. Use safety equipment. Properly fitting helmets are important in minimizing head injuries in winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and even ice-skating. Wrist guards are also a great idea. Some companies now make winter gloves with built-in wrist guards. First time ski and snowboarders might also look into padded underwear to protect hips and tailbones.
  4. Use well maintained gear that fits. Many snow-sport injuries occur due to ill-fitting equipment that is poorly maintained. If you are renting equipment, use a reputable company with staff trained to properly outfit you and your child.
  5. Know when to stop and rest. Dr. Zaslow (an avid skier) says, “Injuries seem to occur on the last run of the day.” Exhaustion can be a major factor of injury in any sport that demands your full attention. Try to end the activity wanting more.


Fun winter activities for the whole family include:

  • Day-time hike
  • Friendly game of ice hockey
  • Indoor ice skating
  • Organized family-friendly 5K or fun-run
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Sledding

Don’t let cold weather be an excuse for not getting out of the house to play with your children. When asked what she remembers from her childhood, Dr. Zaslow fondly remembers skiing with her dad and how that time spent together brings her warm thoughts to this day. This winter, create moments with your child that one day will become fond memories of winter activities with family.

For more ideas about cold weather activities to do with your family, visit Stay healthy and warm this winter!


By Marvin Mangahis, BSN, RN, Pediatric Nurse and RN Remedies Blogger at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.