By Johnny Jackson
Trish McDonald's job is to help teach 450 children ways to stay fit and healthy through activity and exercise.
But, her job becomes more difficult during cold, winter months because indoor activities are often limited.
"This time of year, it's really tough to do anything at home," said McDonald, a physical education teacher at Bethlehem Elementary School in Henry County.
On Friday, McDonald taught a group of Bethlehem kindergarten pupils how to jump rope for exercise as an alternative to playing outside in the cold.
Jumping rope, she said, is one of several ways children can engage in indoor exercises during cold weather periods. League basketball, volleyball, aerobics, and indoor swimming are other activities.
"By signing them up for youth leagues during the winter months, they will have something to do two or three times during the week," McDonald said. She also suggests fitness and health clubs.
At Gold's Gym in McDonough, for instance, children can exercise while their parents are working out.
"So many kids nowadays aren't active the way they were when we were little," said Kathy Blackwell, group fitness director at Gold's Gym. "We feel it's very important for kids to get away from the TV, and get out. Here, we incorporate a little cardio and make it fun for the kids."
Gold's Gym holds eight children's exercise classes each week and offers swimming lessons on Saturdays, starting today.
Bob Brannon, athletic director for Clayton County Public Schools, said youngsters "need to dispel the myth that, because it's winter, they can't exercise." He urged youngsters to make a routine of doing simple exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks, sit-ups.
"Parents need to also encourage their children to do calisthenics, isometrics, [and cool-weather sports,]" Brannon said. "We've got a lot of tennis courts around the county. It's a great sport to play in this kind of weather. "And, something that doesn't require a lot of effort, but is very productive is diet [as] we seem to eat more in the winter," Brannon added. "
According to KidsHealth, a division of the Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media, parents can help keep their children active by incorporating physical activity into the daily routines of their youngsters - from household chores to an after-dinner walk.
KidsHealth suggests parents allow enough time for free play and childhood pastimes; keep a variety of games and sports equipment on hand; join children in regular family activities; and limit time spent in sedentary activities, such as like watching TV, going online, and playing video games.
For more tips on staying active this winter, visit the KidsHealth web site, KidsHealth: www.kidshealth.org.