Kicking Away ‘Winter Blues’ with Parks and Recreation

By Lesha Spencer-Brown, MPH, CPH, Program Manager, National Recreation and Park Association

When winter comes around and the ‘winter blues’ start to set in, it can be daunting to even think about getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for adults or 60 minutes of physical activity for children and adolescents . This can be challenging particularly for those in northern states where temperatures often get well below zero and winter storms bring unimaginable inches of snow.

While it does take a little extra effort to stay active during winter, the great thing is that winter provides a whole new way to play and be active. Fortunately, in nearly every community across the country there is a park and recreation agency that serves as a neighborhood resource, offering opportunities for community engagement as well as a variety of indoor activities and outdoor adventures  for all ages and abilities. Each winter, park and recreation agencies create and circulate winter activity catalogs filled with physical activity opportunities for the residents of the communities they serve.

Here is a list of 3 ways to kick away those ‘winter blues’ with Parks and Recreation this winter:

1. Indoor Activities

Local community centers fill the winter months with activities for youth and adults, including swimming; yoga; Zumba; Pilates; Tai Chi; pickleball; tennis; winter basketball, baseball and soccer leagues; ice hockey; walking programs; winter gardening workshops; and more.

Many communities also use technology to engage people in physical activities during the winter months. The City of Moraine Parks and Recreation located in Moraine, OH, uses a web-based interactive tool known as Passport for Wellness to engage their older adult population in physical activity, thus eliminating the need to brave the frigid winter temperatures. Passport for Wellness is specifically designed for older adults of all abilities and targets physical, mental and social health.

“Our Passport for Wellness program is especially popular during the winter months. The program has 12 web-based episodes, each approximately 25 minutes, and takes participants to different locations around the world. Exercises in the national parks and Tai Chi in China are popular, and the exercises can be done seated or standing”– Grace Neal, Sports, Fitness and Youth Program Coordinator, City of Moraine Parks and Recreation

2. Outdoor Adventures

Dressed in the proper winter outdoor gear, parks and recreation provide a variety of outdoor adventures that help people meet the Physical Activity Guidelines. These adventures include winter fun runs and walks, winter hiking, camping, skiing, sledding, ice skating, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and snow biking, among many others. No equipment? No need to worry! Many agencies provide rental gear for the different adventures offered.

Denver Parks and Recreation located in Denver, CO, hosts many of the above mentioned outdoor adventures for youth and adults including their “Garden of the Gods Hike” led by a park naturalist, cross-country ski programs, and multi-day adventures of snowshoeing and camping. These activities include more than just physical health; participants also learn about winter ecology.

3. Community Engagement Opportunities

Staying active with parks and recreation not only contributes to improvements in physical health, but also enhances mental and social health as well. The variety of community engagement opportunities offered by parks and recreation provide communities with means to stay connected and build social networks that lead to improvements in mental health and overall quality of life. Many agencies host winter festivals or tree lighting ceremonies, with fun activities for the entire family. In Burlington, VT, the Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront  boasts yearly winter community events including the “Brrlington Winter Bash” for children and their families, and the “Holiday Ice Skating Show: The Gift”.

Through parks and recreation there are activities for all ages and abilities. No need to hibernate this winter! Get out to your local park and recreation agency and participate in a variety of activities to help you and your family stay active all winter long!

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The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of public parks, recreation and conservation. Follow NRPA on Facebook and Twitter for updates about resources, research, and other activities.