Keeping your family happy and healthy in winter

We all feel better when the sun is shining don’t we!

Mood, eating habits, sleeping, energy levels and behaviour can all suffer during the winter months and this goes for children as well as adults.

Living in the northern hemisphere leaves us lacking fresh air, exercise and vitamin D from the sunshine during the winter months. All these ingredients are crucial for overall health and wellbeing so without them we can suffer from what is often referred to as the winter blues or, in extreme cases, seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

School outdoor playtimes and PE often have to be moved indoors in the winter due to the weather. Children then come home from school and plonk themselves straight down on the sofa because they can’t get outside to play. When Christmas arrives, the situation worsens still – two weeks spent sitting around the house, indulging in Christmas food treats and watching a lot of TV or playing on screens.

Sunflower feels passionately about keeping children active and getting them outdoors. Our child health experts explain: “Happiness, energy levels, self-esteem, ability to learn, behaviour and ability to cope are all affected by a lack of exercise, daylight and fresh air.

“In order for children get the best out of life, we need to work harder during the winter months to ensure they get outside, keep active and eat well.”

We have put together some advice to help families feel good over winter:

Indoor family workout/aerobic sessions to music

Put on your favourite family tunes, get into your exercise clothes and have a fun session. Look up some exercises in advance and take it in turns to step out front and lead the exercises. Not only will it get everyone moving, but it will probably get everyone laughing as well!


It’s not always that inspiring to get outside when it’s wet and cold. Geocaching gives you a bit more incentive to wrap up and leave the house! It’s basically outdoor treasure hunting…and who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? Just search online for geocaching options near you.

Try something new

Challenge yourselves to try something new once a week as a family. It could be going for a cycle ride together, going ice skating or even trying a pony ride. Maybe you could wrap up warm and try an outdoor art/painting session in the garden. Or why not head to the park for some family winter Olympics – three legged races, space hopper racing, dribbling a football etc.

Walk to and from school

A brisk walk is a great way to start and end the day. If you live too far away from school, try just parking a bit further away. A 10-15 min walk at each end of the day can make a big difference to our overall health.

Vitamin D

We get our vitamin D from sunlight during the summer months, but from November to March in the UK, and October to April in Scotland, the sun is not strong enough for us to get the amount of vitamin D we require.

Sunflower practitioner Sheree McGregor says: “Vitamin D is produced in every cell in the body with the help of sunlight, therefore it affects the whole of the body and hence every aspect of our health and wellbeing. This includes keeping our bones healthy and modulating calcium levels, promoting the immune system to fight against colds and flu. It can even protect and prevent cancerous tumour from developing. The status of Vitamin D in children will contribute to their developing health as adults. It improves not only present health but safeguards future health.”

Foods that contain Vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon and fresh tuna, eggs, some cereals and some yoghurts.

Dr Louis Levy, Head of Nutrition Science at Public Health England (PHE) says: “A healthy, balanced diet and short bursts of sunshine will mean most people get all the vitamin D they need in spring and summer. However, everyone will need to consider taking a supplement in the autumn and winter if you don’t eat enough foods that naturally contain vitamin D or are fortified with it. And those who don’t get out in the sun or always cover their skin when they do, should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the year.”

The NHS says a daily dose of 400 units of vitamin D is safe for all age groups.

The Sunflower is an innovative health and wellbeing programme for children. If you are concerned that your child needs a little extra support, contact the Sunflower Trust on: 01483 531498, email:


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