Cool runnings: Why winter sport is good for kids

Kids stuck indoors this winter? Here are five excellent reasons to get them rugged up and outdoors.

With the days getting shorter and cooler, it can be tempting to hibernate indoors – whether you’re eight or 80.

But there are plenty of good reasons to encourage kids to get outside and get active, even if the weather’s not playing ball.

Kids need an hour of exercise every day

Experts say kids over five should be active for at least 60 minutes a day to develop healthy bones, muscles, joints and organs, keep their brain healthy, improve co-ordination, posture and flexibility, and prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

winter sports kids

It boosts the immune system

As well as keeping kids fit, being active can keep winter bugs at bay, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

While cooler weather is often blamed for an increase in colds and other viruses, the researchers found breathing fresh air, even when it’s colder, can help strengthen the immune system.

It makes bones healthier

Children also need sunshine to maintain healthy vitamin D levels – essential for kids to maintain strong and healthy bones.

The Cancer Council Australia advises that just a few minutes a day in the sun, even in the colder months, can ensure children get enough of this vital nutrient.

It creates a lifelong habit

Professor Lisa Gibbs, director of the University of Melbourne’s Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, says getting kids active and outdoors is vital to their wellbeing – now and into the future.

“We want children to be physically active for their health and wellbeing now and we also want them to create those lifelong habits so that being active becomes part of their everyday lives,” she says.

winter sports good kids

It increases kids’ happiness

Prof Gibbs worked on the 2017 Happiness Survey, in which 52 per cent of children said sport made them happy and 43 per cent said being outside made them happy.

Great winter activities for kids

  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Rugby
  • Netball
  • Gymnastics
  • Tobogganing
  • Dancing
  • Ten-pin bowling
  • Indoor rock-climbing
  • Tennis
  • Non-structured activities like running, skipping, flying kites or jumping in puddles
  • Racquetball

Raising Children Network Australia has plenty of other ideas to get kids off the couch in winter, including lots of activities you can set up at home.

But if the kids really do resist going outside, Prof Gibbs says technology and devices shouldn’t always be demonised.

“These devices can be fabulous for rest and there are some fantastic apps and games. We just need to make sure that being active is built in to our days as well,” she says.

Written by Sally Heppleston