By Christine Bannister Moore
The “lazy days of summer” often take on a literal meaning when kids are home over summer vacation.
During the summer months, kids are especially prone to watch more TV than the one to two hours a day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They also spend longer periods of time playing video games and snack more frequently than during the school year. These activities may be summer staples, but unhealthy practices picked up over summer months often follow kids throughout the years, creating an unhealthy cycle and unhealthy habits as adults.
The season’s warm weather and long, sunny days offer the perfect opportunity to incorporate healthy activities into your children’s lives. Children who get regular exercise and stay active, especially over the summer (when unhealthy habits tend to take over) are less likely to be overweight adolescents and adults, are less susceptible to infections and illnesses and also develop higher self-esteem. Regular exercise and physical activity is imperative to the development of little bodies and helps to foster strong bones, lean muscle mass, increased metabolism, as well as healthy behaviors children can integrate into their daily routines.
Working activities and exercise into your daily schedule may be easier than you think. Here are a few strategies to build a healthy summer routine for your child that will take them into a healthy adulthood:
Make Time. Make physical activities a priority by scheduling them into your days far in advance. Create a Summer Fun Calendar and include at least one hour of physical activity per day.
Chart Progress. Use a graph to track skill improvement, endurance levels or time spent doing each activity. When your child sees the progress he is making, he will become more confident in his abilities, enjoy the activity more and will challenge himself to improve even further.
Hidden Exercise. Exercise and physical activity hide in places you don’t expect. Try these and your child won’t even know she’s getting a workout:
- Chores such as lawn work, vacuuming and sweeping incorporate movement, muscle use and coordination, burning as many as 120-200 calories, depending on time and intensity.
- Walking your pets for thirty minutes a day is not only good for your child, it can help Fluffy lose a few extra pounds as well. Be sure you know the route your child is taking and set a time for him to return.
- Get wet and wild with a variety of water activities. From swimming to simply frolicking in the sprinklers, water activities are a great way to get the kids outdoors and their heart rates up. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
- Hit the arcade if you can’t drag your child away from his video games. Play games that integrate dancing, running and jumping for a cool, indoor workout.
- Go back to the basics with old fashioned childhood activities, such as bike rides with friends, playing tag, jumping rope, adventure hiking, building forts or holding bandstand and dance contests.
Organized Sports. Organized sports organizations are abundant during summer months. If time commitments and potential costs aren’t a concern, organized sports are an effective way for kids to get regular exercise, be out of the house and meet friends with similar interests.
Your own attitudes about exercise, playing sports and healthy habits will be carried on by your child. Be sure to talk with your kids about the importance of exercise and what leading a healthy life means to you.
Most importantly, allow your kids to just be kids. This summer, make it a priority to give them ample opportunities to be outside, run, jump, play games, climb trees and explore the outdoors. Their appreciation for nature, their bodies and exercise will culminate in lifelong habits that will make them healthy adults.
Articles in the Healthy Kids Series are presented by the Marine Corp Marathon’s Healthy Kids Fun Run.
The Marine Corps Marathon’s Healthy Kids Fun Run will be held on October 30, 2004 in Arlington, VA and is an exciting and safe way for kids to participate in an organized running event and be exposed to the joy and satisfaction of being a physically fit individual. Visit them on the web atwww.marinemarathon.com.