2a-hfn-fun-in-feb-theme-engActive ways for the whole family to enjoy winter

Come on, let’s go! Being active outside increases energy and decreases tension – plus, it is fun for the whole family.

But, it’s Cold Out!
If you’re not having fun outdoors, then you aren’t dressed properly. It’s that simple. So, get geared up for some winter fun: dress in layers, bundle up fingers, toes and noses, and bring an extra pair of mitts to comfort little people’s fingers when they get soggy and cold.

Proven Effective
Physical activity is one of the pillars of healthy living. Being physically active has been linked to health benefits for your bones, muscles, heart and brain. It may also help with weight loss. According to a 2014 study involving mice, exposure to frequent, short durations of cold triggered an increase in metabolic rate and stimulated brown adipose tissue. In other words, the mice’s exposure to cold caused them to burn more calories.

Catch a Little Vitamin D
Bundling up in the winter means our skin doesn’t get much sun exposure. Our body uses the sun to synthesize vitamin D. The International Osteoporosis Foundation collected plasma vitamin D levels in different populations and suggest there is evidence that we are experiencing a vitamin D insufficiency pandemic. Vitamin D is known to be associated with many diseases including: osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, some cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Foods like salmon, eggs and fortified milk beverages are sources of vitamin D. Supplements are also a good way to ensure your body gets sufficient vitamin D.

Staying Healthy Inside
In the winter, people huddled inside for warmth filling schools, offices and houses. This creates a petri dish perfect for viruses to thrive in. Keep yourself healthy this winter with the help of immune-boosting nutrients including vitamins, minerals, probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids. Are your cravings for biscuits and stew reducing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts and other sources of immune-boosting nutrients? Try using a multivitamin, smoothie powder mixes, or zinc, probiotic and omega-3 supplements. These supplements and immune-boosting herbal medicines, such as Echinacea and ginseng, are available at your local health food store.

Fun in the Winter
Ready, set, go play in the snow! Winter is a wonderland filled with lots of great fun. There are the traditional winter activities like tobogganing, skating, snowshoeing and skiing (don’t forget your helmets), but there are many other fun outdoor activities you can do! Many of these activities can be done in your backyard:
• Play Snow Tag
• Go on a Scavenger Hunt
• Build a Snow Obstacle Course
• Go for a Hike or Walk while Playing ‘I Spy’
• Create a Family 3-D Snowman Portrait
• Dig a Snow Maze with Shovels
• Try Snoccer (Snow Soccer)
• Design and Build a Snow Fort
• Compete to Make the Biggest Snowball
• Participate in at an outdoor Community Event

Fun for the Little Ones
Have you ever tried painting the snow? Simply fill up empty squirt bottles with water and food colouring and spray your wintery wonderland colourful. Paint a game of hop-scotch, or use the coloured snow to make pretend ice cream cones or other magical potions.

Frosty Bites and Barks
Heading outside in the winter is fun for your whole family, including your pets. But, little paws are prone to frostbite just like the rest of your family’s fingers and toes. If a family member has red, tingly or numb body parts, they should be immediately taken indoors and slowly warmed. Since dogs love to be outside too, watch for shivering or other signs your dog may be getting cold to help ensure they don’t get frostbite. When you come inside, wipe their paws with a damp towel to remove salt and other potentially harmful chemicals. Do not leave animals outside unattended in cold weather.

Safe and Dry
Frequent hand washing during the cold and flu season can leave your hands dry. Try using hand soaps without sodium-lauryl sulphate, as this chemical has been known to dry out skin. After hand washing, apply a natural body cream, which contains moisturizing nutrients, to help create a moisture protective barrier. To avoid additional irritation to the skin, try using skin creams that do not contain phlalates and parabens.

Options for Extreme Cold
Living in the northern hemisphere sometimes comes with temperatures that are just too low to head outdoors. On those days, hop off the couch and enjoy the opportunity to play indoors. There are so many games to play and ways to be active inside – your heart, muscles, bones and brain will appreciate it!

Indoor Fun in the Winter
• Create a Boot Camp in the Basement
• Start a Game of Chase (perfect for little ones)
• Play ‘Follow the Leader’ or ‘Simon Says’
• Go to a Museum or Art Gallery
• Swim at the Indoor Pool
• Skate at an Arena
• Try a Climbing Gym
• Challenge your family to a game of ‘Twister’

References:
J. Thompson Coon, K. Boddy, K. Stein, R. Whear, J. Barton, M. H. Depledge. Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011; 110203115102046
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102947t
Ravussin, Y. et al. Effect of Intermittent Cold Exposure on Brown Fat Accumulation,, Obesity and Energy Homeostasis in Mice. January 17, 2014
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085876.
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0085876#pone-0085876-g004
Bendik I, et al. Vitamin D: a critical and essential micronutrient for human health. Front Physiol. 2014 Jul 11;5:248. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00248.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25071593