The days are getting shorter, and the air is getting cooler. Coming off hot summer days and seemingly limitless possibilities to be active and explore your community, your parks and recreation department may be starting to see dwindling citizen participation numbers when you look at registrations in your parks and recreation management system. Don’t worry; it’s not just your community.
Cities and counties across the nation are at risk of citizen hibernation this time of the year. Our natural inclination is to stay indoors and be less active during the winter, even in parts of the country that enjoy sun and warmth year-round. This trend poses particular risks for children who should be forming healthy lifestyle habits during their adolescence.
The Temptation to Stay Indoors
Studies have shown that children tend to be less active during winter months, especially on weekends. Data from a study conducted in the U.K. determined that physical activity among children was typically lowest in the fall and winter. Activity levels peaked during the month of April at 65.3 minutes per day but reached their lowest levels in February at only 47.8 minutes per day. The study also found that activity levels tended to be lowest on weekends, likely when children are not benefitting from school mandated play and physical education.
These numbers come as no surprise, as cold, inclement weather inhibits spontaneous outdoor play, family trips to the park, and outdoor water-based activities like swimming, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Unfortunately, we all know that young people, as well as adults, need regular physical activity year-round—not just certain times of the year. To motivate the families in your community to stay active winter long, integrate some of the newest, trendiest winter activities into your wintertime parks and rec calendar of events.
1. Hydroriding. Combine the convenience of indoor swimming with a favorite summer-time activity: bike riding. Hydrodriders are in-water cycling bikes that are perfect for any skill level. Underwater pedaling not only creates comfortable resistance, but it is also easy on joints, making this an ideal wintertime activity for seniors.
2. Little Ninjas in Training. Create a fun, high-energy class for preschoolers that focuses on running, jumping, and kicking, to help them feel like powerful ninjas-in-training.
3. Indoor Pickleball. The latest competitive sport sweeping the globe is pickleball. It combines everything adults and kids love about tennis, table tennis, and badminton. All you need to take advantage of the hype surrounding this new trend are wiffle balls, pickleball racquets, and indoor court space.
4. Geocaching. Who says this digital treasure-hunting activity can only take place in the summer? As long as you stash your cache in a safe location that is accessible even on snowy days, geocaching gives your citizens a reason to bundle up and explore outdoors.
5. Chair Tai Chi. This traditional style of martial arts has proven to offer benefits for improving circulation and flexibility. Tai Chi performed while sitting in a chair is an excellent way for seniors suffering from joint stiffness and arthritis to get active indoors in the winter.
6. Winter Kickball. If your spring and summer kickball leagues are some of your most popular group activities, so why not extend the fun into the winter by organizing a wintertime kickball tournament? As long as your kickball field is clear of snow, it’s game-on.
7. New Year Wellness Challenge. Encourage citizens to form teams to commit to an eight-week wellness challenge. Ask all participants to log their total number of active minutes every day. Everyone’s a winner with an activity that keeps citizens mindful of healthy habits at the start of a new year.
8. Acrodance. Give your regular dance and gymnastic participants a new challenge. Acrodance combines the challenge of tumbling with the up-tempo fun of jazz dance.
9. Cardboard Sled Contest. Get the whole family involved with a community-wide cardboard sled-building contest. Hold races in your town park and give prizes to the fastest, and most creative cardboard creations.
10. Hula Hoop Fitness Class. Hula hooping is a no-impact, fat-burning, hip-swinging activity that’s fun for all ages. All you need is an open gym, some hula hoops, and music that will make your class want to dance.