- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

GUILDERLAND, N.Y.

It’s cold. The noon sky is gray, and the sledding hill is all ice. Dave Hilderbrandt stands at the crest, watching his 8-year-old daughter and her friend gleefully zoom down on their plastic sled.

Neither cold nor snow can keep the Hilderbrandts from getting regular exercise.

“We’ve been out here in blizzards,” said Mr. Hilderbrandt, a resident of this Albany suburb. “Of course, we don’t stay long.”

Keeping children active when the weather is warm is child’s play. But parents can have a tough time keeping them moving when ice crystals are forming on the windows. Even though winter weather can be a powerful inducement for children to play Nintendo, watch TV and generally hibernate, pediatricians say it is important to make the effort to exercise.

Researchers think children burn about half as many calories in the winter as they do in the summer. Fitness specialist Peter Rehor of Camosun College in British Columbia, Canada, said that although children tend to eat more in the winter, the larger problem is a decrease in activity.

Dips in wintertime activity are especially worrisome to pediatricians as they treat more overweight patients. Obesity among children and teenagers has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

Doctors say keeping children active is crucial year-round. Dr. Maddy Weiser, a pediatrician who runs Youth Movement Fitness Club in Bryn Mawr, Pa., suggests continuous movement for 45 to 60 minutes multiple times a week.

A big problem is that children, though crackling with energy, often lack the self-discipline to regularly hit the treadmill or the StairMaster.

One obvious answer is to get them bundled up and out the door. The Guilderland school district even sends a “Go Out and Play” brochure home with its elementary students in the winter, listing local places to ski, skate, snowshoe and sled, like the hill frequented by the Hilderbrandt family.

“There are some tricky months,” said Colleen Mickle, a physical-education teacher at Guilderland Elementary School. “But if it’s not OK for snowshoeing and it’s not OK for skiing, then it’s good for hiking.”

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