family fitness

Winter Family Fitness Can Be Fun

We may be in the throes of winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to toss aside family fitness. Following are 10 tips on how you and your family can stay physically fit and enjoy time together during this frigid season.

Plan for success.

Choose activities everyone can participate in and make them convenient, simple and fun. Get your kids’ input as to what they want to do so there is some buy-in. Also make sure you participate; kids will have more fun if Mom and Dad get in on the act.

Rough and tumble zone.

If possible, create an indoor active zone where you and your kids can be active. See what you can shift around in a spare room or the basement so you can move freely without tripping over wires or knocking something down. Or put on coats and move the cars out of the garage. This will allow you to do some motion activities such as jumping jacks, jump-rope, hula hoop and hopscotch, as well as formal exercises such as squats, lunges and situps. Keep the area dedicated if possible, so it’s always available when you’re ready to be active.

Board ‘em busters.

Make a list of fun exercises you and your kids can do in a given week, post them on a board in a visible location, then each day have everyone choose one or more activities they want to perform. Vary time and repetition according to age. When an activity is complete, give your child a sticker to put on the list. At the end of each week, offer a reward to keep everyone motivated – go ice skating or bowling or take a winter bike hike.

Go pro.

Tweak professional games so you can play them inside. Have a round of basketball with a soft foam ball or wad of newspaper and a basket. Try indoor bowling with 10 soda bottles, each partially filled with water or sand. Set in a triangular shape and then knock over with a medium-sized ball. Tennis anyone? Stretch a string across the room, tape it to the walls, blow up a balloon and use poster board squares for rackets. Or play indoor volleyball.

Tone up.

Everyday items found around the house can help your family tone up. Use milk jugs partially filled with water or sand to strengthen your chest, shoulders and arms. Make the bottom step a stair stepper to build your leg muscles and cardiovascular system. Step on the waistband of old pantyhose and pull up to work biceps, triceps and shoulders.

Color my wintry world.

One fun and easy game your family will enjoy is an outdoor ice cube hunt. Make different colored ice cubes and hide them in your yard or at the park. Then bundle up and let the game begin! Create a color point system to determine the winner or say that whoever finds the most gets a prize. You can even do it at night with a flashlight. The best part is the ice cubes won’t melt so you can stick them in the freezer and have the hunt all over again.

Skating on thin ice.

If there is snow on the ground and it’s below freezing, create a backyard ice skating rink. Place tarp over the snow and hold down the edges with a mound of snow or a few bricks. Fill several buckets with water (you don’t need much), pour it over the tarp and let it freeze. When a thin layer of ice forms, put on your boots or sneakers and have a family skate.

Frolicking fitness tag.

It doesn’t have to be warm outside to play tag. With this version, base isn’t an object, it’s an activity. Players run around and avoid being tagged by performing a simple, predetermined exercise such as 10 jumping jacks, 15 squats or 20 hops on one foot. Set the rules prior to the game. And don’t let the snow stop you. Running around in it will add resistance and increase your heart rate.

Cold war capers.

A fun thing to do in the snow is play tug of war. Dig parallel trenches that are three- to four-feet long and mound up the snow in the middle. Divide your family into two teams, then have each team stand in a line perpendicular to the mound on either side of the snow. The first team to pull their opponent into the snow bank wins.

Out and about.

Many parks are open throughout the winter and you can incorporate exercise and education by taking a hike to scout out animal tracks, find creatures that move about in the winter and identify trees that keep and loose their leaves. Or have a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Make up a list of items your family has to find: a red door, blue car, winter bird, etc. Then take a walk around the neighborhood and see who can find the most items.

Want more winter family fitness ideas? Try these!

  • Snow games. Set up an obstacle course by building snow hurdles and other barriers your family has to either jump over or run around. Or draw targets with Sharpies on trash can lids, bury them at different distances into the snow, then toss snowballs at your target. Add a new slant to sledding by setting up stacks of snowballs or upturned trash cans, then, as you head down the hill, throw snowballs to work on target practice.
  • Concoct a competition. If you have an indoor active zone, there are a number of relays your family can do. Pile everyone’s shoes in the corner of the room, form two teams, then have players slither or roll to the pile (no walking allowed), pull out and put on their shoes and walk back to the next person on their team. Or go feather up, belly down! Opponents get on their bellies and use a straw to keep a feather in the air and away from each other. Whoever can blow the feather over the other person’s line wins.
  • Ad-lib with obstacles. Create an outdoor obstacle course that involves different activities: dribble the soccer ball to a certain point, skip to the next, pick up the football and run home.
  • Ever-ready oldies. Consider traditional games you can do indoors or outside at the spur of the moment: “Duck, Duck, Goose,” “Follow the Leader,” “Mother, May I?” “Red Light, Green Light,” “Simon Says” and “Charades.”
  • Find facilities. Check out local organizations to see if they offer parent-child classes or have indoor pools or open gym facilities for playing basketball, volleyball, soccer and other games. Many martial arts programs have combined adult-child programs. Call local ice and roller skating rinks to get hours for open skates. Or for inexpensive exercise, go to the mall and take a brisk walk.
  • Reach for resources. One website,, features a list of physically active games your family can play, along with a game generator that allows you to combine games to create new ones; you can winterize them too. Or check out “Family Fitness Fun Book” by Rose R. Kennedy (Hatherleigh Press).

Each month we have a parenting-inspired question and we ask moms and dads to share their tips on Then we share them with you the following month!

This month’s question: How does your family stay physically fit and enjoy time together during the winter months?


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