Getting your kids out and moving this summer is more than just fun for them—it’s vital to their health. And summer is the perfect time to get your little ones up and out of the house, even if you have to sneak activity into their day.
Researchers, dietitians, and health experts all agree that kids need exercise to aid their growth and development and to stave off childhood obesity, a hot-button topic from the White House to the playground.
First Lady Michelle Obama is leading the charge with her national effort called Let’s Move! The program provides healthy foods in schools and also aims to increase children’s physical activity, educate parents, and make healthy foods accessible and affordable for families.
Dr. Rachel Ruiz, a medical student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, conducted a recent study of pre-school Latino children, which showed that kids learn about physical activity from their parents and model their behavior.
The study tracked the activity of 85 Hispanic parents and their pre-school-aged children as part of the larger Salud con la Familia childhood obesity study conducted by Dr. Shari Barkin.
Researchers monitored activity levels of the parents and children before the study began and were surprised that even the youngest children mimicked sedentary behaviors of their parents. “This showed us that we need to include the entire family unit in encouraging physical activity,” Dr. Ruiz said. “These habits are established early in childhood and they can have a profound impact on lifelong health.”
Dallas dietitian Graciella H. Sanchez says that parents can include physical activity in their children’s summer routine by limiting television time and getting to the local community center or YMCA.
Rae Pica, a national children’s activity specialist based in Alexandria, Virginia, and author of A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity, & Free Time Create a Successful Child, also recommended using summertime to establish family physical activities, like taking walks together.
Sanchez and Pica suggested the following tips for kids’ summertime movement:
- rent exercise videos from the local library
- jump rope
- roller skate
- ride bicycles together
- help with chores around the house
- take family outings to the park
- take movement fun throughout your day: skip, jump or hop to your mailbox, to and from your car, etc.
Laurie Fox began writing professionally in 1991 as a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News. She has written about topics including news, politics, education, features and lifestyles. Now a freelancer, clients include Reuters news service, newspapers and local magazines. She writes from her Arlington, Texas, home to spend more time with her eight-year-old daughter.