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BLOOMINGTON — Want ideas on how to remain physically active as a family this fall and winter?

Here are suggestions from Denise Balagna with Bloomington Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department; Doug Damery with Normal Parks & Recreation Department; Erin Kennedy of the Center for Healthy Lifestyles at OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center; and Tony Morstatter of the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal:

  • Rake leaves as a family then let the kids run through them. Sure, you'll have to do some additional raking but everyone will have a good time. Then rake leaves as a family for an elderly neighbor. 
  • Do fall chores as a family. Put away the grill, lawn furniture and garden hose and get out the winter clothes; the entire family will benefit from getting that stuff done.
  • Bundle up and go out for a family walk after Thanksgiving dinner and other dinners when the family is together. If it's already dark, take flashlights. On a clear night, head out to one of Bloomington-Normal's larger parks, such as White Oak or Tipton in Bloomington, and get an eye full of the moon and stars.
  • Go for a daytime nature or adventure walk, trying to identify trees from their leaves on the ground and keeping an eye out for critters, birds, different-colored rocks or trees whose unusual shapes will be more apparent without leaves. Popular areas for hiking include Sugar Grove Nature Center near McLean, Comlara Park on Evergreen Lake, Moraine View State Park near LeRoy and Starved Rock State Park near Oglesby. Nature hikes are possible in Bloomington-Normal parks, including the Ewing parks in Bloomington and Fransen Nature Area and Hidden Creek Nature Area in Normal.
  • Grab a football or disc and have a pickup game in a neighborhood park. Consider buying a glow-in-the-dark football or disc to continue the game after dark. Illuminate yourself with glow-in-the-dark wrist bands or small LED lights and reflectors that may be attached to your clothing. Or grab flashlights and play a game of flashlight tag.
  • Consider a fun run/walk such as the annual Turkey Trot, the Ugly Sweater Run or the Respect Run in Bloomington's Miller Park.
  • Gather up the family and enjoy holiday lights while walking rather than driving. Get the entire family involved with your own Christmas decorating.
  • During the first substantial snowfall of the season, go outside and build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
  • Get the entire family to help with shoveling. A game of snow shovel toss may ensue and you'll have to shovel more but everyone will be moving and grinning.
  • Constitution Trail (a map, including trail heads, is at and all other Bloomington-Normal parks (listed in the parks and rec departments' websites) remain open all winter. Go for a walk or jog on the trail, but watch out for ice because the trail isn't salted. Take your kids to your nearest park playground or to Miller Park Zoo. Take your dogs to the dog parks at Maxwell or Shepard parks in Normal. Play disc golf at P.J. Irvin Park in Bloomington or Maxwell Park in Normal.
  • Go sledding at Highland Golf Course or on Jersey Hill in Ewing Park III, both in Bloomington. See who can sled the farthest.
  • Go cross-country skiing in any of the Bloomington-Normal parks or in Comlara Park.
  • If you are a member of a local fitness center, look at classes and exercise offerings and discuss with your family what would be a good fit. If your kids are interested in climbing, consider Upper Limits Climbing Gym. If they're interested in martial arts, consider a martial arts class. Boys & Girls Club, whose offerings include a basketball program, has open gym 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays.
  • Go to the parks and recreation departments' websites ( and and check class offerings. Among Bloomington winter offerings are open gym volleyball, pickle ball, open skate at Pepsi Ice Center, gymnastics and dance for children and indoor disc golf putting leagues. Among Normal offerings are swim lessons, dance classes, fitness classes, basketball and circus arts.
  • When you don't want to leave the house, do jumping jacks, push-ups, crunches or lunges during television commercials. Put on music and dance in your living room. Find a fun fitness class on YouTube and have the whole family join in.

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech


Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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