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The 4 best ways for your family to enjoy winter

Pediatric physical therapist shares her favorite spots in the Twin Cities for active family fun


By Stephanie Oehler, PT, DPT
January 4, 2018

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With the holidays over, the feeling of go, go, go is now in the past. It’s a relief to not need to think about decorating the house, planning a big dinner or buying gifts.

Taking some time for yourself is valuable. But getting into a habit of sitting on the couch and watching TV can be a slippery slope to fall into over the winter. The chilly weather makes it so easy to not leave the house – and that tends to mean not getting much exercise at all. In fact, the average American will get in 20% fewer steps during the winter.

So make getting outside a priority! Doing so will give you a boost of Vitamin D, which gives us important nutrients. And besides the obvious physical benefits, regular exercise has been linked to improved mood and psychological wellbeing.

My family and I like to take walks around the neighborhood and see how many snowmen we can find. And there’s a host of other ways you and your family can stay active this winter, too. Here are some ideas:

Snowy play dates.

Why avoid it? Get out in the snow and play! Dig the sleds out of the garage and find the biggest hill. Start a battle of snow forts and snowballs. Or build your entire family in the snow! It’s so fun seeing replicas of ourselves in the front yard.

Enjoy the parks.

We tend to think of parks as just a summertime go-to, but hikes can be just as enjoyable in the winter. And Minnesota and Wisconsin have some of the best and most beautiful parks. Get out of town, and hike on the frozen lakes. Our family loves to find tracks in the snow and guess what animal they came from. In Ely, Minn., you can even go on a dogsledding adventure!

Learn a new sport.

Winter has all kinds of sporting activities to try. Learn how to skate, ski or snowboard. Or try something more competitive like curling, broomball or hockey. If you aren’t ready to be this adventurous, visit the Loppet Ski Festival or the ski jumping competitions at Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington, Minn. for some front row entertainment.

Get active…indoors!

Yes, there are days that are just too cold to get out and play. But there are fun indoor options, too. Get the family out for a game of bowling. Check out a trampoline park or rock-climbing wall. Visit U.S. Bank stadium for some inline skating. Or check to see what your town offers for local community programs. Parks and recreation departments often have opportunities for you to try something new without a large commitment. And in the St. Croix Valley, HealthPartners’ PowerUp community initiative teams up with school districts and other partners to host open gyms, dance parties and other fun events for kids.


Getting families to eat better and move more is a priority for our organization. Learn more about our PowerUp campaign and ways to get your family active and eating more fruits and veggies.

About Stephanie (Keller) Oehler, PT, DPT

Stephanie Oehler is a member of the pediatric rehab team at the Park Nicollet Clinic in St. Louis Park. She works closely with patients from birth to age 18 and their families. She specializes in the treatment of children struggling with weight management issues as well as kids recovering from concussions. She also works with infants and young children diagnosed with torticollis, plagiocephaly and developmental or gross motor delays. And she provides treatment to older children who have undergone surgery or have other orthopedic concerns, too. Outside of work, Stephanie enjoys spending time exploring the Twin Cities with her husband and daughter.

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