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A Simple Winter Equation

By Mary Kozicki

Healthy Minds + Healthy Bodies = Energy

Many studies have found that good nutrition, along with exercise, positively affects the health of our mind. This is especially important in children, from birth to adulthood, in creating a healthy learning environment. A number of studies have shown that students who eat a nutritious meal and engage in moderate exercise are better able to focus and have higher test scores. And according to these studies, the most important meal of the day is breakfast, which many kids and even parents miss.

The Journal of Pediatrics June 2005 issue concluded that children need an hour of physical activity daily. A Centers for Disease Control & Prevention study found that 60 percent of children ages 9 to 13 don’t regularly participate in organized physical activity outside of school. Even with this knowledge, schools are making cuts to physical education! At the same time, fast food and junk food are replacing nutritious food to generate money and to accommodate busy family lives. Health and nutrition become low priorities.

No matter the season, it is important to recognize that there is link between health and exercise. An active outdoor activity any time of the year helps to establish life-long patterns of healthy physical exercise.

As we approach the winter season, remember that there is no need to stop activities because of the cold. In fact, studies have shown that, in spite of the common belief that exposure to cold air will cause a cold, fresh air is good and healthy at any time of the year. In fresh, outdoor air children and adults do not rebreathe the germs of the group and the chance of spreading infection is reduced.

Here are some important points to remember when engaging in any winter activity:

  1. Dress appropriately, wearing layers for warmth and removal if necessary.
  2. Wear proper outerwear.
  3. Use the appropriate equipment for the activity.
  4. Avoid slippery and frozen surfaces (unless needed for the activity, of course).
  5. Keep moving in cold weather.
  6. Look for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

Winter sports do not need to be expensive. Some wonderful activities only require your imagination. For example:

  • Piles of snow can be used to construct igloos. Use additional snow to construct furniture and people for your igloo. Use some coloured water to paint the furniture.
  • The game of fox and geese is played simply by creating a circle in the snow and the fox tries to catch the geese. Great fun, especially if the snow is deep.
  • Sliding down a hill is always an exhilarating ride, especially if the hill is steep and long. The climb back up may be tiring but is a wonderful way to energize your body.
  • How about street hockey using two pails as goals? Many an NHL player started out playing street hockey with teams of various players.
  • Enjoy a simple walk in the deep snow, making a trail through the park and enjoying the sunshine and fresh crisp air.
  • Of course, there is the age-old, can’t-resist snowball fight.

With rosy red cheeks and a burst of energy, it may be time to come in and enjoy a hearty bowl of homemade soup, along with some fruit for dessert.

The benefits of exercise are plentiful for children and parents alike, according to the National Association of Sport & Physical Education. These benefits include an improvement in muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Boosts in alertness and energy levels, along with improved sleep, were also observed. So do exercise and a healthy diet matter? You bet they do, in many ways, for everyone from early childhood to adulthood.

Change is hard, but we need to understand that nutrition and exercise play a vital role in encouraging and supporting kids’ healthy lifestyles which will carry over into adulthood.

Changing school food choices and introducing more nutritious meals along with additional exercise isn’t easy or cheap, but the many long-term benefits outweigh the considerations of the short-term focal point.

Mary Kozicki, BScN, has been in the nursing and business world for many years. Before moving to Penticton in 2011, Mary owned and operated a home support business. She witnessed many aspects of poor nutrition while visiting her many clients. Mary was introduced to the importance of whole food nutrition by her daughter, a medical doctor who saw firsthand, through her practice, the benefits of good nutrition. Mary enjoys knitting, reading, and cheering on the Penticton Vees. Phone 778-476-2469 or email m.koz@shaw.ca.

 *Reprint from our Winter 2016 issue

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