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With shorter days and colder temperatures, it can be harder for parents to help children get needed exercise. After a long day at school, children benefit from change of scenery. With the proper attire, reasonable amounts of time outdoors, even during the cold, is beneficial.

Researchers believe children burn about half as many calories in the winter as they do in the summer. They tend to eat more and decrease activity. That’s especially worrisome to pediatricians, who are already treating more overweight children.

Though winter weather can be a powerful inducement for kids to play video games, watch TV and just generally lounge around, pediatricians say it is important to keep them moving. Consider some of the many options available in the area during winter.

At Cheshire Fitness, a kids fitness class for children 5-10 years old takes place every Thursday from 3:30-4:15 p.m. Thursdays. It’s free for members and $3 for nonmembers.

The family swim at Cheshire Fitness is great for all ages. Weekly family swims are held evenings, days and weekends. An entry ramp helps make a comfortable starting point, especially for young children. If you tag along with a friend having a membership, swim fee is $3 per person.

January at Cheshire has the popular “Pay the Date” membership promotion, where new members pay an initiation fee pegged to the day they join (the fee on Jan. 2 is $2, for instance).

At the Carver Center, there are kid’s karate classes on weekdays. For more, visit bmrp.recdesk.com or call 669-2052.

Osega Gymnastics in Swannanoa has many options, including weekly organized group gymnastic and tumbling classes and its popular Friday Night Parent’s Night Out ($15). On Saturday, there’s open gym ($5), and on Sunday, there is Ninja Academy ($10). Organized classes have a monthly fee, but your child can try out the first class at no cost. For more, visit osegagym.com or call 665-0004.

Black Mountain Center for the Arts offers assorted dance classes with instructor Amy Maze for kids 3 and up. The list includes beginner and intermediate classes, dance troupe, all-boys class and preschool motion class. It also has ballet classes for preschoolers to adults with instructor Casey Littlejohn. Visit blackmountainarts.org or call 669-0930.

Black Mountain Yoga has yoga classes for kids 4 up, as well as tween and teen classes. There’s more at blackmountainyoga.com and 669-2939.

For something totally free, bundle up and head outdoors for close-by hikes or activities at area recreation areas. For Montreat hikes, pick up a trail map at the Montreat Conference Center’s Assembly Inn front desk. Or hop onto the Black Mountain Recreation Park’s walking path, fields or disc golf course.

Several schools like Black Mountain Primary and Elementary and WD Williams, as well as the Swannanoa Library, have field space, playground equipment, basketball courts and walking areas open to the public during nonschool hours. Lake Tomahawk has plenty to play on and walk around (like the lake).

For outdoor skating and biking, try the smooth paths of the of the Black Mountain Greenway behind the primary school that runs up to the Cotton Creek neighborhood.

Tarwheels Skating Rink in Swannanoa offers weekday evening open skate times, as well as weekend day and evening times. Skate rental available; for more, call 298-6606. For outdoor skateboarding, explore the Food Lion Skatepark in downtown Asheville, which offers 17,000 square feet of skating with beginner to advanced courses. It’s located at the corner of Flint and Cherry streets, across Interstate 240 from the U.S. Cellular Center. For more, contact 255-7184.

When exercising outdoors in the winter, it’s important to closely monitor your body and be aware if you are having any of the following symptoms of hypothermia - drowsiness, weakness, loss of coordination, pale or cold skin, confusion, uncontrollable shivering, slowed breathing or slowed heart rate. Dress in layers to add or subtract warmth.

One trick is to help make regular exercise fun for a child during winter - any time, really - is their bringing along a friend, a favorite ball or music to enjoy.

Fitness experts stress that it is important for parents to stay positive about exercise and be good role models. Be careful about telling your kids to go out in the cold if you are camped out in front of the TV. Head out with them.

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