The importance of exercising outdoors this winter

Boys on their bikes outside

When the temperature plummets, the usual notion is to hibernate indoors like bears and come out again in the spring when the weather picks up. However, as cosy as that sounds, it is not the healthiest mentality to take, especially when you have small children who need to burn that excess energy. Studies have shown that outdoor activities that encourage kids to exercise during the colder months help their bodies ward off seasonal bugs and ailments more efficiently, and it keeps their mental health in check too.

Do you find that you are sicker during colder weather?

There may be reasons for this. Either you have not built up your immunity to the cold, you’re circulating the winter bugs indoors with no ventilation, or your heart isn’t pumping heavily enough to boost those white blood cells and help kill off those germs.

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When I was younger, my mum used to keep me, and my three siblings wrapped up and indoors during the cold season, and we ended up getting sick every time. I passed this mentality onto my kids at the very beginning of motherhood, and I’d wrap them up until they were sweating – of course, this was terribly counterintuitive because they ended up getting sick too. One day, my then four-year-old decided he didn’t want me to drive him to nursery anymore and would throw temper tantrums until I agreed that we’d walk.

I thought to myself, why am I fighting a child who wants to walk the twenty-five minute journey to nursery and back? So, I agreed but said:

“Ok, let’s walk! It’s freezing and windy, but come on, you can experience it for yourself!”

So we walked every single day, even during the harshest temperatures in February. And, guess what? We didn’t get sick! We didn’t even have the sniffles. So, my 4-year-old had single-handedly changed my opinion on the cold. It’s not the cold that gives us the cold, it’s the bugs that surround the air and the fact that we are not equipping our bodies with enough strength to fight off the germs. So, eating a healthy diet, getting in plenty of heart-pumping exercise, fresh air, and lots of sleep is the key to warding off these winter bugs (as well as, of course, the flu shot). It was then I realised that outdoor activities that get the kids exercising during the colder months were more beneficial to their physical and mental development than keeping them wrapped up at home. So, this article is all about the great outdoor activities that kids can partake in to get their heart pumping during those colder months.

Kit the children out in warm clothing and wrap them up against the cold

It’s important to keep your body temperature as level as possible all the time, despite changes in external temperature. What I mean by this is, if you’re inside, you take your warm clothes off, so you don’t sweat, and if you’re outside, you wrap up, so your body stays warm. If you are running outside and heating up, it’s actually better to take off a layer, so you don’t sweat, because once you cool down in the cold, that’s when the cold can hit you, and you may get sick.

TOG24 stocks an impressive array of winter clothing, so parents don’t have to worry about whether their kids are keeping warm outside. Some of our favourites are:

Winter jackets

Kids winter jackets during the winter should be waterproof, windproof and breathable so kids can run around free whatever the weather. TOG24’s Revolution Kids Milatex Jacket in Bright Lime combines all three and is bright enough to be seen when darkness hits earlier than usual during the winter months

Waterproof gloves

Waterproof gloves are great as they allow kids to enjoy the snow without their hands turning into ice cubes.

Kids enjoying the snowy weather - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com

Winter Hats

I grew up being told that we lose forty to forty-five per cent body heat from our head when this is, in fact, not true. The face, head and chest are more sensitive to changes in temperature than any other part of the body, which is why we feel colder if we don’t cover up our head. But in reality, no more than ten per cent is lost through the head. But winter hats do make you feel warm and cosy, so I always invest in them for the kids.

Suitable boots and shoes

Make sure kids are wearing proper boots and shoes that keep them safe, whatever the terrain. Snow boots are great for icy/snowy/sleet covered ground and wellington boots/waterproof shoes are useful for wet slippery floors.

Keep kids fed and hydrated

Drinking water - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com

Kids will be running around, and burning energy, which gets depleted fast, so keeping the right amount of energy foods and drink will keep them going for longer. I bought these great personalised lunch boxes from Petit-Fernand, which are perfect for little outings in the cold. Each lunchbox comes with a main container, two removable containers, an ice pack (perfect for summer lunches), a bento layer and a lid. I fill up the lunchboxes with lots of goodness, and when the kids need a break they can enjoy their feast!

Petit-Fernand personalised lunchboxes
Personalised lunchboxes from Petit-Fernand
The many layers of Petit-Fernand lunchboxes
The many layers of Petit-Fernand lunchboxes
Enjoying lunch at the partk
Enjoying lunch at the park
Enjoying lunch at the park
Enjoying lunch at the park

Outdoor games for kids

Kit the children out in protective gear and take them rollerblading

Rollerblading is an excellent sport for kids because it promotes confidence, uber fitness (you burn a ton of calories when rollerblading), balance, socialising and, most importantly, it is so much fun! I used to rollerblade as a child and bar a few scraped knees and accidentally ripping off a layer of skin from the inside of my leg, it was one of my favourite ways to get around town. I’m not sure I was fully protected when I was younger, so we bought the whole protective gear set from skates.co.uk, including the helmets, protective pads (for wrists, elbows and knees).

Fitting the protective gear from skates.co.uk - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com

Check out the video below of skates.co.uk’s gear in action and when my boys rollerblade for the very first time!

Take them to the park, even in the winter!

At the park during winter

We head to the park as much as possible, whatever the weather, and as it’s cold, the park tends to be very quiet too, which means the boys get to go on all the playground equipment whenever they want. There is no reason to boycott the park, just because it’s cold. It’s the perfect place for kids to burn their energy and enjoy a change in scenery, rather than being cooped up at home all the time. It’ll give you a bit of respite from having the kids at home, and it’s the perfect way to bond with the family and burn a bit of energy yourself, seeing as it’s too cold to sit and watch them from the comfort of a bench!

Playing in the playground
Enjoying nature in the park - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com
Enjoying playground equipment at the park - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com

Take the kids skiing/sledging!

Sledging in Kreuzboden in Switzerland

Skiing is a great way to get the kids involved in winter sports. We headed to Kreuzboden in Switzerland one year, which hosted great sledging grounds, introductory courses to skiing and snowboarding, as well as a water-games park. There was plenty to do, and the boys had an absolutely fantastic time. Plus, the view was breathtaking!

Kreuzboden, Switzerland - view
Enjoying the view of Kreuzboden in Switzerland from high up

Before you head off on your winter sports adventure, make sure you’re prepared with the right kind of clothing and equipment. Simply Hike offer a wide selection of ski clothing designed to protect you from harsh weather conditions, so you can just concentrate on having fun!

Walk as much as you can

Walking through nature - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com

If a journey takes less than thirty minutes to get to, we walk and avoid the car as much as possible. Thanks to my youngest, who built up his leg muscles during nursery, our family embark upon 10k walks that involve lots of beautiful sightseeing on the way. We pack some snacks and drinks and make sure to take plenty of breaks, so the boys have enough energy to make it back home. By the end of the walk, we all feel nicely tired and happy because we got in plenty of fresh air during our exercise. It’s so cleansing for the soul, and it’s such a great way to teach the kids how to exercise in a fun way – it’s not always about going to the gym, but utilising nature itself to help you exercise and get fit and healthy!

Boys enjoying nature during their walks - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com

Build a climbing frame in your back garden

We want the kids outside as much as possible, not stuck indoors during the cold. So building a climbing frame in your back garden means that the kids have the perfect excuse to invite their friends over for a great time in the back yard. The image above of the climbing frame is from manomano.co.uk and was very tricky to build, so we employed professionals from Crawfords Garden Maintenance to expertly build the climbing frame for us. You can see them in action making the climbing frame in the video below:

Buy some goal posts for your rear patio and encourage kids to play football with friends

Football in the garden - goalposts from manomano.co.uk

The boys are obsessed with football, so we bought some junior football goalposts from manomano.co.uk, which have been used every day since – definitely a worthy investment for the back garden! Again, a little tricky to build, but we got there in the end, without the need for professionals!

Tricky building the goalposts - manomano.co.uk

After school and if there aren’t any extracurricular activities on, the boys head straight outside after they’ve had their snacks and play to their heart’s content until dinner time. This is how life for kids should be. They should never be indoors!

Go for long bike rides

Bike rides - image by https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com

My boys are six and eight, and in their time they have completed 10 – 15k bike rides – and they’re getting stronger and stronger too. I massively advocate bike riding, it really enhances children’s motor skills, especially balance and speed. The boys are very proficient on their bikes now and haven’t needed stabilisers since they were three. We now capitalise on their skills by taking them out on different terrains, especially during the colder months.

Bike riding in the park - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com
Bike riding in the park - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com
Bike riding on the road - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com
Bike riding on muddy terrain - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com
Bike riding in the forest - https://www.prestonperfectphotography.com

Take the kids swimming

Above swim gear from Simply Swim
Above swim gear from Simply Swim

Swimming, in my opinion, is a vital sport to learn as it is a survival skill. In case of an emergency, the boys need to swim to safety because they know how to swim. We take the boys swimming every week, and they have come on leaps and bounds with their swimming skills. We also kit them well in swimming gear from Simply Swim and take them even during the winter. We just make sure they’re thoroughly dry and wrapped up warm when they come out

Take them ice skating too!

Ice skating in Ally Pally!

Ice skating is a beautiful, graceful sport and perfect for kids to practice when they’re young, so they’re able to glide around the ice when they’re older. Both myself and my husband ice skate and so we were able to pass on specific skills on how to glide on the ice properly. The boys now love ice skating, especially as they have been practising rollerblading, which somehow helps a bit to get used to skating on ice. We do try to take them as much as we can so they can continue to practice their skill. Ice skating is wonderful during the colder months as it’s cold anyway. Just wrap up warm and enjoy the feeling of gliding. Be careful of bruised bums tough!

It doesn’t matter what kind of sport you encourage your kids to be involved in, as long as they’re outside and pumping blood around their bodies to keep them fit and healthy. We are a sporty family (both my husband and I grew up on sport), so that’s why we try to push the boundaries a bit and encourage the kids to take up all sports all year around. Next, we’re going to introduce them to skateboarding, so watch this space!

I’ve created a long video timeline below of my kids enjoying exercising outdoors in the colder weather, and you can see that it’s so much fun. Don’t be scared of the cold, instead, get used to it and own it – your body will thank you for it later.

Video of my kids exercising outside

*Some products have been gifted as part of a review and some links contain affiliate links*

*Photos by Preston Perfect Photography*

Leyla Preston (590 Posts)

Leyla Preston is the owner and Editor of Motherhood Diaries global magazine for parents. Leyla is a busy mother of two even busier boys; Aron, 8, and Aidan, 7. When Leyla isn’t feeding, managing a gazillion tasks or cleaning the infinite mess at home, she is busy working on this magazine and a new cooking channel coming very soon – no rest for the wicked! You can follow Leyla on Twitter (@M_Diaries) or join the busy Motherhood Diaries Facebook group where all mums get together and share stories and solutions with one another: https://www.facebook.com//groups/motherhooddiaries/