Keep your family fit by staying active this summer

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It’s hard to believe July is already here! Busy lives for busy people, right?

Are you and your family engaging in regular physical activity this summer? Are you and your kids swimming at the pool, playing at the park, sitting by a campfire or walking at the beach? For many, these are the types of activities are included as part of a busy and fun summer. However, many babies and toddlers spend a lot of time strapped in car seats, and older children spend significant amounts of time sitting in front of the TV and a computer or handheld devices.

Sedentary routines may hinder motor skill development and heart, lung and muscle health. Choosing regular physical activity over being sedentary may be one of the most significant decisions parents make that affect their families’ future health and habits. What are ways you and your family can make your summer more active? Here are several ideas to consider:

• Go for pre- or post-dinner walks or bike rides. Take a stroll around the block or several blocks of the neighborhood. It’s a great way to become familiar with your surroundings and encourage your children to socialize with others. Encourage the kids to be observant — watch for new families in the area, point out newly planted flowers, count the number of pets in yards or sitting in windows, look for a certain style or make of vehicles, anything to make the adventure exciting and a learning experience. Strive for at least 10 minutes of physical activity at one time and as many as 30 minutes total.

• Visit a nearby park. Locate and visit parks in your neighborhood, community, city or region. Perhaps visit a nearby state park or greenway — make it a weekend day trip. Which parks best meet your family’s needs and interests? Do water activities interest your family? Perhaps take along your fishing poles or try kayaking! Do your children enjoy playing on playground equipment? Does your family enjoy hiking in the woods and on trails? Make the trip personal and enjoyable, and pack healthy snacks and bottled water for everyone!

• Have a weekly sports night. Play kickball in the yard, hide and seek, tag — all activities you enjoyed as a child. Introduce these activities to your kids and join in the fun! Sports do not have to be organized games or practices!

• Work in the yard and garden. There are basic outdoor chores we all want or need to do. Determine age-appropriate activities you and your family can do together. Discuss yard and garden projects and visit local lawn and garden shops together — empower your kids to be a part of improving and maintaining your yard and garden needs. Try their hands at creating a new flower bed or weeding the flower bed, mulching flower beds, picking up sticks from a recent storm, watering the plants, planting and tending a vegetable garden, etc. If you do not have a yard to maintain, perhaps you and your family can volunteer to assist with a church or school outdoor project.

These are just a few ideas, there are many more! Discover what works best for you and your family. Whatever you do, make regular physical activity an important part of your family’s daily routine. In addition to wonderful health benefits, you are helping them develop healthy habits that will likely follow them the rest of their lives. Enjoy your summer!

Paula Furiness is the wellness coordinator at Wilson Medical Center. She is an American College of Sports Medicine-certified clinical exercise physiologist who has worked in the health and wellness field for more than 30 years. Have questions? Contact her at paula.furiness@wilmed.org.