Thursday, July 4, 2013

Get off the Couch! Keeping Your Family Healthy During the Summer (and Beyond)

As the dog days of summer set in, your child might want to burrow into his favorite spot on the couch with a bag of chips in one hand and a game controller in the other. While it might be tempting to join him, DON'T! Research shows that exercise isn't just good for your body, it's also good for your mind. This week we are focusing on ways you can help your child stay active during the summer and hopefully, for life.

Get off the Couch!
Keeping Your Family Healthy During the Summer

(and Beyond)

by Mikey Smith, M.Ed


It used to be that the start of summer meant that our parents would push us kids outside, lock the door and tell us not to come home until dinner unless someone was bleeding profusely. Nowadays, however, more and more kids are spending more and more of their summer sitting on the couch playing video games and watching TV. We all know that kids and adults and people in general are more sedentary. What can we do to reverse that trend in our own homes?

Make it a Family Affair

As with everything, parents can start by being positive examples. It's hard to expect your kids to go outside when you're sitting inside watching TV with a snack in one hand and the remote in the other hand. Go on family hikes or walk the dog together, or even get down and dirty with yardwork. Taking care of chores is a great way to make them go faster as well as to burn calories!

Be Adventurous

Let's face it, walking up and down the same old streets in your neighborhood can get a tad boring. Houston is home to dozens of sites great for exploring. Find parks, trails, campgrounds, outdoor places and events with -

 The National Wildlife Federation's Nature Find Website

The National Parks and Forests

and local playgrounds.

Learn New Skills (Or Sharpen Old Ones)

Summer is the perfect time for your child to take up a new sport or hobby, or practice an old one. There are tons of camps aimed at kids in the Houston area, for everything from cheerleading to hip hop dance to yoga and everything in between. Participating in a several-day or week-long camp allows kids to learn about a new activity in a non-competitive atmosphere and doesn't involve the same commitment as signing up for a team or a long series of classes. Your kid doesn't like archery camp? Fine - there's badminton, basketball, baseball and ballet next week!

Make it Competitive

It's one thing to start a fitness routine, but it's another to keep it interesting. Once you've decided to start walking together as a family, how about upping the ante? Take things a step further (pun intended) by getting everyone in your family a pedometer or smartphone app that'll track your steps. Then, reward the family member with the most steps taken each week with an important choice such as what movie or tv show to watch Friday night, or what restaurant to visit next time the family eats out. Making staying fit competitive can help keep everybody involved after the newness has worn off.

Go Old School

Kids love it when parents play with them, possibly because it happens so rarely. Get off the porch and seize the opportunity to show your kids how to play Freeze Tag, Sardines, Ghost in the Graveyard, or any other old favorite. Even throwing a baseball or football gets your family outside enjoying themselves, and, of course, being active. An added bonus: games like this don't cost a cent, so they can be enjoyed over and over! If you're a bit rusty on your rules, check out this website to brush up:

Simple Outdoor Play

Allow Some Indoor "Chill Time"

Let's face it: it's hot during the summer. You probably can't expect your kids to spend all day every day outside, but there should be some limits on how much time is spent indoors on sedentary activities such as video games and TV watching. Make very clear how much time your child may spend on these types of activities or prepare to hear the words, "One more game," over and over again every day. Another option is to allow your child to earn hours for sedentary activities based upon the number of other activities he or she has completed. Better yet, invest in a few active video games that get kids moving something besides their thumbs!

Don't Forget About Dinner

All the exercise in the world doesn't make a difference if you keep filling up with fast food and unhealthy options for dinner and other meals. Let your kids help you out in the kitchen, or, if they are older, have them plan and execute the entire meal. Even small children can handle simple cooking tasks such as tearing lettuce for a nice, big salad. There are many websites and magazines that feature kid friendly cooking recipes tested by real kids in real kitchens, including:

Rachael Ray

 Cooking Light

and Food Network.

Look Towards the Future

We all know it's not easy to start a fitness routine and it's even harder to keep to one. By setting fitness goals as a family you can teach your kids healthy habits that hopefully last not just the summer, but a lifetime.

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