Q: We don’t have much trouble keeping our 7-year-old active in summer, but now that it’s cold and we’re stuck inside, we need some suggestions!
A: When Jack Frost is nipping at your noses, you may need to be more creative in helping your child come up with ways to stay on the go. (And rest assured, this is an issue that affects most families, not just those with a child who has type 1!) Keep it simple by breaking up sedentary time with anything that involves physical movement.
For starters, there are plenty of ways kids can stay active around the house. Dancing to music, jumping rope in the garage, hitting a balloon around to keep it in the air, walking up and down steps in the house, doing some easy stretches, using resistance bands, jogging in place, doing jumping jacks, abdominal crunches, and push-ups, setting up an indoor obstacle course with the couch cushions, or even just sweeping, vacuuming, and washing dishes by hand are good ways to get kids moving. Keep it fun by calling it the “Indoor Olympics” and make sure you join in! There is often no better motivator for a child who is reluctant to exercise than having the entire family, parents included, take part.
Need more cabin fever busters? Because so many families now have access to active video gaming systems, investing in a few exercise- and dance-oriented games may be just what you all need to stay motivated for a workout. Have your kids do 15 to 30 minutes of active games at a time — repeat this throughout the day. And don’t forget to check your local listings! An increasing number of cable stations offer exercise programming targeted at both adults and kids.
As far as outdoor play goes, dress your child in warm layers for comfort, but make sure he comes inside occasionally to warm up and check his blood sugar. Make sure you and your child discuss your plan for monitoring signs of low blood sugar if he’s outside on his own.
Winter is also peak season for indoor organized sports such as swimming, basketball, wrestling, indoor track, indoor soccer, dance, ice hockey, gymnastics, volleyball, and preseason conditioning. For younger children, free time at an indoor play gym can be a lifesaver! Or why not pick up a new family sport by signing up for family ski or snowshoe lessons, in which parents and kids learn with the same instructor?
By way of a reminder, whenever you’re incorporating physical activity into your child’s routine, work with your diabetes care team to determine how to monitor the effects of exercise on his blood glucose and to adjust insulin or food intake as needed. Physical activity or lack thereof can impact blood sugar. If you do sign your child up for a winter sports team or lessons, know that seasoned sports directors and coaches have no doubt worked with children with type 1 diabetes before, but you should still take time with them to go over the basics.
–Sheri Colberg-Ochs, Ph.D., is a professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.