Leading up to the holiday season, many parents spend a great deal of time researching and shopping for the perfect gift to give their kids. While there's no shortage of new and innovative gadgets kids will love this year, it's important to find gifts that encourage your children to get active and play outdoors, no matter how old they are.
Warm winter clothes and sports equipment, such as ice skates, a sled or a soccer ball give kids a gift that's more than just exercise -- these gifts help children foster a connection to the outdoors, help with cognitive development and teach social skills.
Lately, there's been a lot of buzz about active video games being a new tech solution to the inactivity crisis in Canadian kids. While active video games -- also called exergames -- may seem like a plausible way to get kids to exercise more, a recent review of academic literature suggests this may not be the case. In fact, based on this research, Active Healthy Kids Canada and its partners, the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (HALO-CHEO) and ParticpACTION, advise against active video games as a strategy to help kids meet the daily physical activity guidelines.
So, while active video games are a good way to break up sedentary time, like sitting on the couch, and may get heart rates up briefly, it's not enough to meaningfully contribute to the 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity children and youth require daily. In order to get the recommended daily amount of physical activity and teach kids physical literacy, kids need to be encouraged to take part in a wide variety of real physical activities that are fun and get their bodies moving and hearts pumping.
BLOG CONTINUES AFTER SLIDESHOW
Constantly on the go? "Stick it in your bag," says Patel. "It's something you can do anywhere you are." A solo jump-rope workout, like this <a href="http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/arms/express/jump-rope-workouts/" target="_hplink">10-minute sculpting routine</a> from <em>Fitness</em> magazine, can burn over 100 calories, and tone the shoulders, chest arms and legs. Some gyms even offer <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jordan-turgeon/jump-rope-workout_b_1235545.html" target="_hplink">jump-rope fitness classes</a>. Or, if a less structured jump sounds more like your thing, grab some friends for some Double Dutch. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/adwriter/5826718940/" target="_hplink">adwriter</a></em>
While she's recently taken to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/12/michelle-obama-jumping-jacks-world-record_n_1143016.html" target="_hplink">jumping jacks</a>, First Lady Michelle Obama is a big proponent of hula hooping as a fun way to get active. In 2009, she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/22/best-michelle-obama-photo_n_328933.html" target="_hplink">performed 142 "swivels"</a> before dropping her hoop at a healthy kids fair at the White House, the AP reported. But it's not just for kids! And now, with weighted hoops, hula hooping can produce even more dramatic results. It <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/19/weight-loss-success-jen-moore_n_1341791.html" target="_hplink">helped Jen Moore lose 140 pounds</a>. "It's something you can do in front of the TV," says Patel, "rain or shine!" <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stringberd/929274139/" target="_hplink">stringberd</a></em>
"You may be surprised how much you actually <a href="http://www.seventeen.com/health/tips/outdoor-workout-ideas" target="_hplink">work your arms and abs while on the swings</a>," National Academy of Sports Medicine instructor Rick Richey told Seventeen.com. You'll work leg muscles climbing the stairs up to the slide and arms and abs from swinging from the monkey bars, he added. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/colorblindpicaso/2540688582/" target="_hplink">colorblindPICASO</a></em>
There's a reason so many celebs have <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/dancing-with-the-stars-gladys-knight_n_1452199.html" target="_hplink">slimmed down during stints on reality TV show "Dancing With The Stars."</a> Dancing is a serious cardio workout -- but can feel more like a party. "Dance, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to get in shape, as you're working multiple muscle groups all at the same time that in turn keeps your body constantly challenged," fitness expert <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/dancing-with-the-stars-health-weight-loss_n_1411588.html" target="_hplink">Tracey Mallett told HuffPost in April</a>. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/12/first-zumba-class_n_1418895.html" target="_hplink">Try a class like Zumba</a>, or burn calories more surreptitiously with salsa lessons or a night on the town! <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/audihertz/6022929764/" target="_hplink">John Bollwitt</a></em>
Ice skating, one of our <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/03/winter-workouts_n_1125504.html" target="_hplink">favorite winter workouts</a>, can burn up to 500 calories an hour. Inline skating can burn over <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20420506_2,00.html" target="_hplink">400 calories in just 30 minutes</a>, according to Health.com, thanks to the side-to-side movement in your lower body, plus the way your core engages to keep you balanced. You'll also seriously work the smaller <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/28/winter-fitness-outside-seasonal-sports_n_1171917.html#s577032&title=6_Ice_Skating" target="_hplink">lower-body muscles</a> that play key roles in keeping you upright. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kcolwell/2433110916/" target="_hplink">kcolwell</a></em>
Who can forget this classic '80s fitness fad? The ankle hoop counted rotations as the user swung the attached ball around and around and around. <em>TIME</em> named the Skip-It one of the <a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2049243_2048660_2049212,00.html" target="_hplink">100 greatest toys of all time</a>. Not only is it a cardio workout similar to jump-roping, you'll also engage the core and lower-body muscles used for balance. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zingersb/161779921/" target="_hplink">zingersb</a></em>
Think outside the sidewalk-chalk box! You can mix up traditional hopscotch jumps by moving side to side as if hitting each corner of a square, as shown in <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFJpIjYfydw" target="_hplink">this Exercise.com video</a> or by focusing on <a href="http://fitbie.msn.com/exercise/hopscotch-men" target="_hplink">balancing on one foot</a>, according to FitBie. Think of hopscotch as essentially a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/plyometrics-workout_n_1399766.html" target="_hplink">plyometrics workout</a>, which has been shown to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12627298?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum" target="_hplink">improve running performance</a>. You can even hop <a href="http://mizfitonline.com/2010/12/15/five-reasons-you-need-to-hopscotch/" target="_hplink">indoors with masking tape</a>, suggests popular fitness blogger MizFit. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bkoger/4791448741/" target="_hplink">Brandon Koger</a></em>
While it will undoubtedly take some practice to work up to 10 minutes of jumping on a pogo stick at a time, it can be a fun cardio workout, burning <a href="http://www.thatsfit.com/2009/12/02/pogosticking-for-weightloss/ " target="_hplink">20 to 40 calories in those 10 minutes</a>. Pogo stick company Vurtego claims celebrity fans such as <a href="http://thearcmagazine.com/play/0908/" target="_hplink">Matthew McConaughey and Allison Hannigan</a>. Just make sure to practice on a flat, open area and consider wearing some protective gear in case there are tumbles! <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/seandreilinger/4819534221/" target="_hplink">sean dreilinger</a></em>
The <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaMY8XakxQ8" target="_hplink">"anti-gravity" shoes</a> popular in the '80s just may be the precursor to today's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/12/kangoo-jumps-mario-godiva-green_n_924580.html" target="_hplink">Kangoo Jumps</a>, running boots of a sort with springs on the soles, used in classes at various gyms and by solo adventurous fitness fans. But that bounce isn't only playful, it's also an easier workout on your joints than running or jumping. Kangoo Jumps <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/health&id=7497802" target="_hplink">absorb up to 80 percent of the shock</a>, Beth Kruper, a Kangoo Jumps rep, told ABC. And they may up the calorie burn, too. "When you run in them you're using more muscles than you would in sneakers," Kruper said. "So if you usually burn 100 calories in a mile, you'll burn 130 to 140." <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mamarazzi/6865835105/" target="_hplink">magnificent momma</a></em>
Take group fitness to a competitive level with an outing to a nearby paintball or laser tag arena. While it's tough to estimate <a href="http://www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/messageboard.asp?imboard=6&imparent=27177758" target="_hplink">the number of calories you'll burn</a>, it'll definitely have you running, jumping, squatting and crawling, all in the name of the game, with some <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2009/07/paintball_a_workout_and_it_als.html" target="_hplink">bursts of anaerobic sprinting</a> to boot. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sombraala/2234093021/" target="_hplink">Greg Boege</a></em>
That's why ParticipACTION is encouraging kids to get outside and play this holiday season -- whether it's in the backyard, at the school yard, or at one of Canada's picturesque parks. Active video games are appealing to kids at first, but the novelty wears off, and kids don't tend to stick with them. They also do not offer the fresh air, vitamin D, connection with nature, and social interactions that come with outdoor active play.
So try mixing up your routine with a new activity that kids can learn and enjoy. Have you ever been snow shoeing? Get active over the holidays as a family -- it sets a great example for your children and places high value on the benefits of physical activity that accumulates through life.
Visit ParticpACTION.com for more tips on how to stay physically active with your family this holiday season and on how to maintain that enthusiasm for active play throughout the year.