Outdoor Fitness Made Fun!

Fresh fallen snow provides a host of fun activities that are sure to cure your cabin fever and improve your family’s health. Huddled in front of the fire is one way to pass the cold winter days, but keeping your family active all year round is the best way to ensure your kids embrace healthy lifestyle habits that will last into adulthood.

“Being active is an essential part of a healthy childhood, but with only 7 per cent of Canadian kids active enough to meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of 60 minutes [of moderate to vigorous-intensity] per day, our kids need to move more - even in winter,” says Kelly Murumets, President and CEO of ParticipACTION.

Sugary holiday treats and sedentary winter lifestyles make it easy to pack on the pounds during the winter months. Higher consumption of sugar and carbohydrates cause insulin levels to rise, which is a major cause of weight gain. Burning those extra winter calories means engaging in more vigorous activity.

Stay in shape this winter with these heart-pumping outdoor activities:

Tobogganing

An old-fashioned Canadian winter pastime, tobogganing is also one of the best winter activities to get your heart pumping. “The trip down is a thrill and the climb up gets your body working hard,” says Murumets. Worried about safety? Tie a rope to a tree at the top of the hill so kids can hang on and avoid slipping down and ensure kids wear a helmet. A hockey helmet allows kids to wear a toque underneath to keep heads warm.

Downhill tobogganing and sledding in Calgary parks is only allowed on designated toboggan hills that have been cleared of trees and other obstacles. There are 17 such hills throughout the city. Some of the most popular are St. Andrews (2504, 13 Avenue NW); Prairie Winds Park on Castleridge Boulevard; Confederation Park; and McKenzie Towne Hill.

Ice skating

Whether at the local indoor arena or outdoors on a frozen pond, ice skating is a great cardio workout that also strengthens the core and leg muscles. While you may think fitting your child with skates is as easy as fitting them with a pair of shoes, Danielle Fujita-Elford, Manager at Professional Skate Service Calgary, says there’s a lot more that goes into skates than meets the eye.

“Parents tend to select skate size based on shoe size but skates do not fit like shoe sizes at all,” she says. She recommends children get fitted for skates at a professional skating store using a figure skating measuring stick.

Support is also very crucial when it comes to buying skates. While parents may opt to save some cash by purchasing used skates, these broken-in-boots will be a little softer than new skates and may not be a great fit for heavy-set children.

“If they’re heavier, there’s too much weight going into the leather and they can’t support themselves,” she says. In addition to skates, be sure to outfit your beginner skater with a helmet. Skate Canada guidelines say children are mandated to wear a helmet until they reach stage 5 when they have enough stability going forwards and backwards.

Calgary is home to many indoor and outdoor skating rinks. Some of the most popular include Olympic Plaza (228, 8 Avenue SE); Rosemont Rinks in Confederation Park (2807, 10 Street NW); and Westside Recreation Centre (2000, 69 Street SW).

Hiking

An hour of winter walking can burn up to 270 calories. Bundle up and hit a walking trail in your area. Take a camera and look for animal tracks in the freshly fallen snow. Have fun guessing which animals made them and look them up on the Internet when you get home, or download MyNature Animal Tracks app on your iPhone and ID tracks as you go. www.Bear-tracker.com is a great site for looking up tracks.

If walking is a little too boring for your clan, slap on some cross-country skis or snowshoes and hit the trails. There are four groomed cross-country ski courses in Calgary (Shaganappi Point Golf Course; Confederation Golf Course; Maple Ridge Golf Course; and Canada Olympic Park).

Downhill skiing

For kids that like an adrenaline rush, downhill skiing is a great option, but this sport is not cheap. Dave Degelman, Manager at Ski West, says kids’ skis range in price from $200 to $600 and boots range from $80 to $450 depending on the brand, quality and size. If your child is new to skiing, renting may be a cheaper option.

Although renting equipment is easier on your wallet, Degelman says there is a downside. “You don’t have consistency in your gear,” he says. If the boots are a little too loose, your child won’t have as much control as they would with a snug boot tailored to their foot. If your child is expressing interest in skiing, setting them up for lessons will ensure they learn proper technique and will be safer out on the hill.

Several clubs around Calgary offer learn to ski programs for kids. Degelman recommends Canada Olypmic Park for beginner and intermediate kids or Southern Alberta Freestyle for kids looking to do ski moguls and jumps. If you’re looking to get out of the city, Nakiska Mountain Resort and Mt. Norquay are great options for a family ski outing.

Lisa is a health and fitness freelance writer.

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