Shuuusshhh… wheeee…! thwump!

December 19th, 2012 | By Marjie No Comments

Hey, kids! Your activity level doesn’t have to decrease just because of the cold weather. In fact, going outside to play in the cold actually has some benefits!

We know that snow sports aren’t easily found in Georgia. Our climate doesn’t allow for it, at least not very often. But shushing down the ski slope, shouting “whee” as you sled on the nearest hill and feeling the soft thwump of a snowball are not the only ways you can play this winter, because cold weather – even without snow – is readily available during the winter right in Athens.

Some of us on the Athens MOVE staff grew up in snow country, so it is surprising to hear our fellow parents say that it is “too cold” for our children to play outside. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Cold weather does not cause colds or flu. But the viruses that cause colds and flu tend to be more common in the winter, when children are in school and are in closer contact with each other. Frequent hand washing and teaching your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of her elbow may help reduce the spread of colds and flu.”

But we do want to clearly state that there are some specific guidelines when playing outside during extremely cold weather. Here is a list of “Do’s” when it comes to winter playtime:

  • Dress in layers of cotton and wool. Layering your clothing helps you stay warm and dry, if there’s snow on the ground. (A general rule is to wear one more layer than your parents would.)
  • Wear boots, gloves or mittens, and a cap … covering your head will keep valuable heat from escaping your body!
  • Go inside once in a while to warm up. Let your body tell you when … if you’re cold, go in and enjoy an indoor game of Twister or Monopoly, then head outdoors again!
  • If you get sweaty, take an indoor break to let your body resume its normal temperature. You don’t want that sweat evaporating and giving you a chill.

Parents, it’s also important for your kids to have you outside with them. When you and your children are outside, you’re in a wide-open, fresh air environment instead of inside a closed room or building where germs can be shared more easily!

According to Dr. Kip Matthews, “Some research suggests that  weather can have a significant impact on one’s mood. For instance, the higher the temperature and higher the barometric pressure, the more positive impact it has on people’s emotions. During the winter, we are generally exposed to much lower temperatures and barometric pressures, leading us to feel down a bit more than usual. In addition, the amount of sunlight can influence our mood as well through the production of Vitamin D. In winter, there is less amount of sunlight which leads to lower production of Vitamin D, which then leads us to feel down a bit more.”

So … bundle up and head outside this winter! Here are some great ways to get moving this winter … and all year long.

  • Homemade gymnastics – no gym needed for cartwheels, roundoffs and somersaults.
  • Yard Olympics – get your friends together for this one! Spoon races (use oranges, apples, or another autumn fruit – see our Nutrition Tips for ideas), jump rope marathons and limbo contests can all be done with those winter layers on.
  • Winter sports like hockey, basketball and volleyball all have outdoor options, even in colder weather.
  • Virtually anything you do inside can be modified for outdoors … be creative!

Going outside to play gives you a chance to use your muscles, work off that ‘cabin fever,’ breathe fresh air and get some natural Vitamin D from sunshine. And if there’s snow on the ground, consider it a bonus and head to the hills for some ‘real’ winter sports. (See our Recreation Zone feature on Winter Activity Options found here in the Southeast US.)

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