Getting kids to play outside and exercise may not seem that difficult, but during the cold winter months it can be quite the challenge.

That’s why HealthPartners pediatrician Karen Elhai, MD, has been writing kids prescriptions to sweat more by trying new activities like snowshoeing, while also doing service to help others, like shoveling a driveway or walking a neighbor’s dog.

Like Dr. Elhai, HealthPartners and Park Nicollet pediatricians from all over the Twin Cities have been helping kids get active this season with the help of a group called CycleHealth, an organization based in Eden Prairie that offers fitness challenges, motivation programs and adventure races to help keep kids moving all year long. They created the Sweat Rx program as a way to help pediatricians inspire kids to become more active.

“I first heard of CycleHealth and the Sweat Rx back in November,” says Dr. Elhai. “I have a significant problem with obesity in my patient population, and when I talk to families one of the big issues is lack of exercise.”

While there are several organized sports groups in her area, Dr. Elhai works with a patient population that is quite culturally and socioeconomically diverse, and many families cannot afford the cost to participate in these kinds of programs. When CycleHealth presented the idea of the Sweat Rx as a way to inspire kids to get outside and exercise in a non-competitive fashion, thereby making it accessible to kids of all ages and athletic abilities, she was hooked.

The program is simple: kids are given a tracking form to record the type of activity they did and the number of minutes they did it for. They are assigned “points” based on the total minutes they broke a sweat (one point per minute, with a 20 minute minimum required to count as a sweat session). In addition, kids get bonus points for trying unique/new activities, recruiting friends/family to join them and doing service for others. They can then turn in their forms for prizes.

Since January, Dr. Elhai and the rest of the participating HealthPartners and Park Nicollet clinics have provided nearly 4,000 Sweat Rx prescriptions for kids. In addition to discussing the importance of physical activity through Sweat Rx, she has also has the ability to insert messaging into the paper visit summary that each patient receives, providing information about CycleHealth and their upcoming community events, including one taking place on Feb. 27 in Maple Grove.

Now in its second year, the Kidarod, a winter adventure race with obstacles for kids age 7-17 of all abilities (sponsored by HealthPartners), combines running, snowshoeing, mushing, sledding, climbing and more into an unforgettable winter adventure race. The goal of the event is to motivate kids to be active in the great outdoors all winter long. No special equipment needed. Three Rivers Park District supplies the snowshoes and facilities. Kids supply the horsepower.

In addition, kids will be able to earn an additional 500 points for participating in the event, and can also turn in their completed Rx forms during the race.

While the prizes are a great incentive, Dr. Elhai thinks that the real victory comes from the message of the Kidarod.

“This is a very unique event in its goals and the message it is sending to both parents and kids,” says Dr. Elhai. “I honestly have not seen anything similar in my multi-state experience.”

  • What: Kidarod by CycleHealth
  • When: Saturday, Feb. 27
  • Where: Fish Lake Regional Park, Maple Grove
  • Cost: $25 ($20 per child for 2 or more siblings)

Register for Kidarod

Want to volunteer? Sign up to be a part of the race crew!