As it gets colder and the days get shorter, some outdoor activities are no longer attractive. Cannonballing in the pool or playing frisbee on the beach? Bro!

Kids and adults need to stay active and find ways to have fun as the seasons change. For most kids, homework, after-school activities, and other commitments can take some time away from their availability to be active.

Although the seasons may change, kids don’t need to be active. Being active and having fun all year round is very important for their physical, mental and social health. To that end, we’ve created some fun ways to get your kids moving and engaged with all the fun fall has to offer.

Today’s kids are not as active as they should be

This statement probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most parents. Studies have shown that children’s activity levels have declined steadily over the years, even before the pandemic. Although many of the COVID-based restrictions have been lifted, children are still not as active as before the pandemic.

Even when people are young, not getting enough exercise can affect their health. Being active improves cardiorespiratory fitness, builds strong bones, and reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Physical activity also helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

How active should children be? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children ages 3 to 5 be physically active throughout the day. Children ages 6 to 17 should get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity. Such activities include aerobic, such as walking or running; muscle strengthening, such as climbing and pushups; and strengthening bones, such as jumping or running.

Fortunately, children can move during physical education classes and school sports teams. Yet, even then, they may not get all the exercise they need. That’s why it’s essential to find ways to stay active—while making it fun, so kids will want to incorporate exercise into their daily lives.

Falling for fall activities

In fall, activities that may be too sweaty in summer are perfect for cooler weather. Grab a jacket and a pair of gloves and be ready to go.

Hiking is a great way to enjoy the fall leaves. Whether climbing hills and mountains or exploring nearby city greenway trails, hiking is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature. Looking for more than a nice walk? Turn your trip into a scavenger hunt: Challenge your little ones to find a pine cone, squirrel or animal track. Listen to birds, wind and water. Give older children a map and let them determine directions. Remember to pack healthy snacks and water.

Start an evening walking club with your kids and track your steps with your Fitbit.

Join a Fitbit challenge as a family or set a daily step goal.

Leaf raking can go from a chore to a joy when your kids can jump into piles of leaves they’ve created. Set a timer and try to finish the raking before it goes off. Work in teams to share the task and celebrate a job well done with a warm cup of cocoa or cider.

Find a local apple orchard and go apple picking. Or, visit a nearby pumpkin patch and find a futuristic jack-o-lantern. Go to a corn maze and walk around (keep your kids close so they can find you easily).

Play a family or neighborhood game of freeze tag or touch football. Create your own rules that make it easy to include everyone, regardless of age or ability.

If you have a dog, ask your kids to walk the dog every day. If you don’t have one, volunteer your kids to walk with a neighbor!

While outdoor play can be fun during the fall, sometimes it can be too cold, dark, or rainy for outdoor activities. If you have a garage, consider moving the car onto the street or driveway so your kids have a place to play during the day. (Be sure to remove any hazardous chemicals or equipment beforehand).

Walk through a shopping mall. Many malls open their doors earlier than store hours to allow walk-ins.

Consider a membership or day pass to a local gym or YMCA for a workout or swim in the indoor pool. Many gyms have minimum age requirements to use the equipment, so check before you go.

Look at the activity offers in your city. The park district has classes your kids and family can drop in or register to attend.

Stuck at home? Find exercise classes on YouTube. Take dance breaks during commercials or homework. There is a speed clear challenge. Or, try a quick workout video in the Fitbit app (subscribe Premium for more workout content).

Keep flexible

Being able to touch your toes is important, finding ways to infuse this flexibility into your children’s lives. For them to have a lifelong activity habit, it must be enjoyable. If they don’t like sports, maybe a dance or yoga class is more appealing. Go old school with hula hoops, chalk and jump rope for hopscotch. Find more unique workout ideas.

Look for minor tweaks to add movement. Perhaps your children can walk to school instead of taking the bus or ride. Or maybe kids play outside when they first get home from school and do homework after dark, instead of the usual “homework first” rule.

Whatever steps you take to encourage your kids to be active (see what we did there?), remember that your behavior will affect them the most. If they see that you find ways to keep moving that you enjoy, they will likely make the activity an essential part of their lives.

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