01/29/2014 08:25 EST | Updated 03/31/2014 05:59 EDT

Kids and cold: Bundle 'em up, send 'em out, doctor says

A Toronto pediatrician says it's wrong to keep kids inside during extreme cold weather, saying the health benefits of staying active during winter far outweigh the health risks of cold exposure.

Dr. Dan Flanders said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday that keeping schoolchildren inside during recess is "a terrible idea," even in double-digit minus temperatures.

"It must be horrible for them," he told host Matt Galloway. "They must be going bonkers.

"If you dress your kids up properly, if you dress them according to the weather, there really isn't much risk," he said.

"We know from the scientific literature that play and movement and physical activity is crucially important to kids' health and well-being that strikes me as quite a benefit."

Is 'inside recess' a good idea?

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) policy (posted here) is to keep kids inside when the wind-chill factor is below –28 C, as it was on Tuesday in Toronto.

When temperature or wind-chill factor is between –20 to –28 C, recesses may be shortened to 10 minutes and lunch recess trimmed to 20 minutes depending on conditions.

Flanders said the result is that kids — who already often spend too much time in front of computers, television and video games — miss an opportunity to stay active for long stretches of the year.

"More than 90 per cent of their time, they're sedentary and sedentary activity is not healthy," he said. "It's one of the worst things that you can do for your body and kids are learning that that's life and that really shouldn't be life.

"When you use the weather as a reason why kids should stay inside, it says something about whether it's a priority to them."

Dr. Flanders comments triggered a huge response on the Metro Morning's Twitter feed.

Many parents agreed kids need to get out more. Others pointed out that kids are often not properly dressed for the cold. You can follow the debate by checking out Twitter feeds for @metromorning or @drflanders.