Let’s face it. It can be hard to get outside during a Vermont winter to get some exercise and activity every day. The good news is that the Rutland region is brimming with programs, new and old, to make it easy and fun to play outside in the snow. So, let’s talk about all of the outdoor activities available to you and your family with February school break underway.

Snowshoes in Libraries! Libraries across the county teamed up with the Vermont Department of Health to promote physical activity as part of the 3-4-50 initiative. Three behaviors, including lack of physical activity, lead to four chronic diseases which cause more than 50 percent of deaths in Vermont each year. The free snowshoe loan program encourages families to get outside for exercise during the winter months. Child and adult sizes are available for loan. Check it out the next time you visit your local library.

More than 2,500 elementary school-age children in Rutland County are visiting local parks, building snowmen, skating and sledding as part of the Come Alive Outside Winter Passport. This program is a way for children and families to earn points and win prizes as extra incentive to get outside and play this winter. Andy Paluch, executive director of Come Alive Outside, says, “We all love to spend time outside, we just forget sometimes; especially in winter! We hope that the passports help keep families hooked on going outside and finding fun adventures at all of the great places and events that Rutland has to offer during the winter.”

The Winter Passports were distributed to kindergarten through 6th-grade students in Rutland City Public Schools, Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, as well as West Rutland, Rutland Town and Proctor Elementary School. Passports have also been distributed to families with pre-school students in the Head Start program. If your child did not receive a passport and you’d like one, they are available at Rutland Free Library, Wonderfeet Kids Museum and CHCRR Pediatric Clinic.

One of the events in the passport is Rutland’s WinterFest, which kicks off on February 16 with a free community skate night at Giorgetti Park. Other activities during the February break week include Go Play Day and Teddy Bear Carry at Giorgetti, Frosty Feet 5k Run/Walk for Autism Awareness at the Rutland Country Club, Center Street night sledding, a chili cook-off, and a snow sculpture contest at Main Street Park. Events are scheduled throughout the city every day through February 24.

As part of Winter Fest, Rutland Regional Medical Center will host a free indoor winter fun event on Friday, Feb. 22 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the CVPS/Leahy Community Health Education Center. Bring your family to enjoy the teddy bear clinic sponsored by CHCRR, arts and crafts, photo booth, DJ dance party, games, pizza and hot chocolate. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/RRMCVT

Mark your calendars for the next round of the 100 Miles, 100 Days Walking Challenge which kicks off with the Shiver Me Shamrocks 5K Run/Walk on March 17. While there are indoor venues to walk (laps at Diamond Run Mall), with the right footwear, winter walking around the neighborhood is still an option. Jaya Davis, program coordinator for Come Alive Outside, said about the challenge, “Living in a place with winter makes us stronger. We are helping more people find the joy in trudging through the snow and making a path, breathing in cold, fresh air and watching the snow fall all around you. Get out there while it lasts!”

February is my favorite month to get outside and play. The days are longer, the sun a bit higher in the sky, and there’s plenty of snow. Put on your hat and gloves and make the most of what this snowy Vermont winter has to offer. This week is a great week to give a new winter outdoor activity a try.

This week’s Health Talk was written by Bethany Yon, chronic disease prevention specialist at the Vermont Department of Health, 786-5115, Bethany.yon@vermont.gov, and Andy Paluch at Come Alive Outside, andy@comeliaveoutside.com.

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