March brings spring break to Texas school children. Parents need to get involved to help provide the types of activities that will prevent children from gaining weight and that will set an example of the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle.
A study published last year by Indiana University and Ohio State University found that 5- and 6-year-olds gained more weight over the summer than during the school year. Researchers speculate that summer lacks the structure of the school year with all its activities. Like summer vacation, spring break gives children plenty of free time to eat snacks and lounge about watching television, playing video games or surfing the Internet. It’s up to parents to provide the structure that kids need.
• Make spring break fitness a family activity. This is an excellent time to lead by example. Show your children that fitness is your personal priority and provide ways for your entire family to embrace it.
• Unplug the electronics. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children receive a minimum of one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise daily. Turn off the computer, television, video games and DVDs. Limit the time your kids can “plug” into electronics. Get them to go outside and play.
• Establish a schedule that gets the family moving. Start the day with a walk. Plan other fitness activity for the week and let the family know that the schedule is set. Do active things together.
• Explore new parts of the city together. Drive to the historic King William area, or any other area with historic homes or buildings, and then walk through the neighborhood. Make the walk a learning experience as well as a fun fitness activity. Be a tourist in your own town. Walk the complete River Walk. Research historic buildings in downtown San Antonio on the Internet or at the library. Start at the Alamo and plan a walking tour for your family that reflects their background and interests. Walk the Mission Trail. Just walk!
• Be your kids’ biggest fan. Reinforce the idea that exercise is fun and rewarding. Be there to share their successes. Encourage them when they finish a one-mile walk or reach the end of the hiking trail.
• Keep a family fitness journal. Document your family’s spring break fitness successes. Create a collection of positive fitness memories with photos and recollections. Use it to emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle and of making a family commitment to continued fitness activities.
• Plan now for the summer. Begin collecting information on summer fitness activities, classes, camps and other programs. Involve your children in selecting the activities they will most enjoy, and schedule these activities now.
Nicole Rogers, MPH, CHES, is the executive director of the Health Collaborative, a cutting-edge, public-private model for solving community health issues. For more information, visit online at www.healthcollaborative.net.
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