Summer is the perfect time for the entire family to refresh their focus on healthy habits. The kids are out of school, camps are back in session, and even the coldest, snowiest parts of the country are rebuilding relationships with the sun. But with all the freedom that summer brings, it can be easy to fall into a routine of sitting on couches, watching television and overeating.
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The best defense against letting idle relaxation become your summer routine? Structure. Incorporating a mix of season-savoring activities, adventures and changes of scenery into your schedule can help you and your family stay healthy and active all summer long. Need a head start? Here are five ideas I love, coupled with important advice from like-minded friends of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.
1. Jump in the water.
Whether it’s in a lake, a pool or even with a hose in the yard, cooling down with a splash of H2O is an American pastime that’s fun for all ages. Plus, swimming is a great aerobic exercise that will help with your aches and pains. But remember to be safe, too, the water safety advocacy group the ZAC Foundation advises. An adult should always supervise a child in or around water. If you’re in a group, appoint designated “water watchers” to keep an eye on swimmers in 15-minute intervals with no distractions.
2. Hike a trail.
Looking for an activity that can last you either an hour or an entire day? Hit the local trails! The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recommends families pack a bag of essentials, like liquids, snacks, sunscreen, maybe even a ball to toss around, and lace up some comfortable shoes. Want to speed things up a bit? Strap on some roller blades or hop on a bike (wear a helmet!) and experience the outdoors with a breeze in your face. Great exercise and great fun. Win, win!
3. Go outside.
The possibilities are endless when you take a step outside with an open mind. Set up a neighborhood game of kickball. Draw on the sidewalk with chalk. Set up an obstacle course. Go for a run. There is no better way to enjoy summer than by playing outside. But, as the Road Runners Club of America says, remember to be smart in the heat. If you become dizzy or nauseated, have the chills or cease to sweat, find shade and drink fluids. But if you keep your safety in mind throughout the day, you’ll be in for hours of fun!
4. Create a family-wide fitness challenge.
Set a physical activity goal for each member of your family. Whether you’re doing five situps or 10 push ups a day, create a chart that holds everyone accountable. To make the competition more “interesting,” the childhood obesity educators at The OrganWise Guys recommend that each family member select a reward (non-food!) ahead of time, and the family can then motivate and compete to reach individual goals by the end of the month. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone!
5. Share family meals.
At the cornerstone of family time, there is usually a tasty meal. Eating together as a family has been shown time and again to offer a variety of health benefits. And, according to Healthy Dining Finder, it doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be dinner and it doesn’t have to be at the dining room table! Whatever shape it takes for your family, the act of sharing a meal together is the priority.
For more smart ways to build wellness for your brood, see Together Counts, a site/blog from the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, HWCF. It is a broad-based, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to help reduce obesity, especially childhood obesity, by encouraging positive and permanent lifestyle changes among school-aged children and their families. Learn more at HealthyWeightCommit.org.