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Summer Fun: Active Family, Healthy Kids

Focused on Health - June 2011

family healthBy Laura Nathan-Garner

Summer vacation just started, and the kids are already bored. Why not lather on some sunscreen, head outdoors and get moving as a family?

After all, family activities can be a great way to get the 30 to 60 minutes of daily moderate physical activity your body needs to fight off cancer, says the American Institute for Cancer Research. Family activities also are a good opportunity to ensure your kids are getting enough exercise.

Kids under six should be enjoying plenty of natural, daily physical activity like running, jumping and skipping. And, kids ages six to 17 should be exercising at an intensity high enough to raise their heart rate for at least 60 minutes a day, five days a week. 

By making physical activity a family affair, you can help your children maintain a healthy weight, which can help them avoid diseases like cancer later in life. Even better: if your kids see you being physically active, they’re more likely to be active — and stay active as they get older.

Get the ball rolling with these activities. And, don’t forget to practice sun-safety!

Organize a carwash — or a dog wash.

Washing your car — or your pup — is a great way to boost your heart rate and work out major muscle groups. An even better workout? Washing several cars or dogs!

Plus, planning a carwash or dog wash is a fun way for your kids to earn money.

family healthPlant a vegetable garden.

Planting, hoeing, weeding, watering and harvesting a vegetable garden does more than work the body’s major muscle groups. It’s also a great opportunity to teach kids the importance of eating their fruits and veggies.

Designate a section of the yard as your child’s garden. Then, teach your child how to plant and maintain the garden.

Don’t have a yard? Start a community garden — or plant your veggies in an existing one.

No matter where your garden grows, your child will learn a healthy hobby that will keep him or her active long after planting the first seeds. And, your family will enjoy the fruits of their labor!

Go swimming.

Swimming is more than a great cardiovascular workout. It also can help lower your blood pressure, boost your “good” cholesterol levels, improve your mood and help you stay cool.

Get your heart rate up by racing to see who can swim the fastest. And, don't be afraid to "lose" occasionally. Winning can motivate kids.

family healthPlan “active” vacations.

Plan your summer vacation around an activity or two. Think hiking, off-road cycling, kayaking, camping or snorkeling.

Not only will your family stay active on vacation, but you’ll also get to explore new places and teach your kids to appreciate nature. The activities you try on vacation might even become the hobbies your family enjoys for years to come.

Added bonus: physical activity helps relieve stress, so your vacation can actually feel like a vacation.

Have a ball.

Some summer activities like picnics, road trips and building sandcastles won’t really get your heart pumping. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in a little exercise.

Keep a Frisbee™ or ball in the car, and whip them out when you’ve been sitting for awhile. Get everyone moving by playing a game of Ultimate Frisbee™, kicking around a soccer ball or tossing around a volleyball.

Choose your own adventure.

Don’t give up if your first attempt at getting your family moving is a bust. Try different activities until you find something that feels more like play than work.

The most important thing is that the activity you choose makes your kids’ hearts — and yours — beat faster for a sustained period of time.

So, choose your own adventure and challenge your family to get moving this summer.

Related Links
Your Healthy Road Trip Day Planner (MD Anderson)

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