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3 reasons your family should spend more time outdoors - even in winter

From adventure walks to footy in the park, there's plenty of family fun to be had in the great outdoors in winter.  Here are 3 very good reasons to ditch the Netflix, rug up and brave the cold!

1. It may help beat the sniffles.

According to medical experts, exercise has a profound and lasting positive effect on the immune system.

Why exactly this is, we don't know yet but some theories include that physical activity flushes bacteria out of the lungs and airways, or it mobilises white blood cells (the body's immune system cells that fight disease), or perhaps it's related to lowered stress hormones.  Either way, it's good for the whole family to get moving and may just help prevent those dreaded viruses from taking over your household.

According to The Department of Health, children aged from 0 to 5 years need to be physically active at least three hours each day, spread across the day and children aged 5 to 12 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate activity each day.

Worried about catching a cold?  As long as kids are properly rugged up experts say that playing outside in the cold can actually improve their immune system - it's simply a myth that colds are caught from being cold.

2. It'll build strong bones

Vitamin D, a vitamin the body produces after exposure to the sun, is crucial for growing bones.  Given we get about 80% of our body's Vitamin D from sun exposure, it's very easy to fall short in winter, particularly if we're holed up inside.

Winter sun doesn't only make us feel good, it helps provide valuable Vitamin D for bodies which are growing all year round.  At minimum, kids should be accumulating 2-3 hours of sunscreen-free exposure per week during winter (except if in QLD and NT, where the recommendation is a few minutes on most days).  Remember to stay sun safe if out for longer periods, and always wear sunscreen & hats between 10-4pm during summer.

Foods which are high in Vitamin D, which are great to include in a winter diet include:  Salmon (and other fatty fish like mackerel), mushrooms, liver and egg yolks, as well as dairy foods with Vitamin D added.

3. It boosts creativity and imagination

Outside play in the colder seasons provides a variety of new challenges for your kids, nurturing curious minds and creating exciting experiences.  Whether it's bouncing a basketball at the local courts, trying to climb a tree or doing flips on the trampoline, outdoors presents both physical  challenges and opportunities to explore which can't be easily matched indoors. 

Here's a few ideas for outside fun:

* A family "fun run" - Parkrun is an all-year round family friendly 5km course you could try, they're in a suburb near you.
* Take bikes and/or scooters and explore a park or botanical gardens you haven't visited before
* A fun kick of the footy, or play tag, or have a game of statues using Iphone music at the park
* Walk your dog.  Don't have a dog?  Borrow one!
* Draw on the pavement with coloured chalk, or make an enormous finger painting outside with butcher's paper.
* Get everyone to help wash the car.
* Take a picnic or sausages to the local park and have a BBQ lunch.
* Go looking for the perfect pet rock, and when you get home, paint them.
* Look into enrolling your kids in a winter outdoor sport, like football or netball.
* Plant a vegie or herb garden.

A walk outdoors in winter can also teach your child about the changing environment and give you a chance to explain things like rain, snow, and dark clouds (can't remember your geography lessons?  Google first!).  Don't let the weather be a limitation - a pair of gumboots, a warm coat and a big umbrella and you'll be set.  Enjoy the memories.