The warm weather and off-school schedules of summertime offer unique opportunities for families to get fit and healthy together. And it needn’t be hard! Here are some easy ways to achieve family fitness and health this summer.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, most Americans do not exercise regularly, with the most sedentary offenders being the younger set – those between the ages of 12 and 21. In fact, the report shows that 14% of young people typically get no physical activity!
Scary stuff. But it can be fun and easy to get fit as a family: The Surgeon General’s Advisory Group recommends merely a moderate level of physical activity for just 30 minutes daily, or an intense activity for as little as 15-20 minutes, to stay fit. Doing either will benefit your family by:
- Building and maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints;
- Helping to control weight, build lean muscle, and reduce fat;
- Preventing or delaying the development of high blood pressure, and helping to reduce blood pressure in some adolescents with hypertension.
Four fun family fitness & health tips for summer
1. Hit the court!Basketball courts in the U.S. are plentiful, and access is often free. Check your local city park, or see if any neighborhood public schools maintain summer access to the playground’s basketball court.
A round of full-on family basketball can be downright strenuous – great if your family’s up for that. But even if you’re not fit enough for a high action game, there are many family-friendly basketball games, such as:
- Around the World – This is a shooting game that progresses around the basketball hoop, with players taking turns in an arc pattern. Getting a basket from the first position lets you move to the next position, and so on, until a player reaches the final shot position.
- Basketball “golf” – Paced like golf ( i.e., no sweat!), you win by getting the lowest score. You take turns shooting from the free-throw line.
- H-O-R-S-E – Yet another take-turns basketball game, a player shoots from anywhere and in any style, with each subsequent player attempting to get a basket from the same spot in the same way.
2. Backyard badmintonBadminton is a sport that takes very little money to make a whole lot of fun. Because the equipment involved is very light compared to other sports, the game is much safer than other high-action games, and is easy for younger family members to learn. Find badminton rules here.
You can get an entire badminton set – complete with net, poles, ground stakes, four rackets, and two shuttlecocks for less than $30. It's fun for the whole family, for the cost of a pair of running shoes!
3. Take a hike!Walking around the neighborhood can get a bit boring (unless you spice it up with fun games like I-spy). But take the family to a nearby trail and the view changes (from utility poles to trees), the terrain changes (from flat to varied), the sounds change (from traffic to chipmunks), and the smells change (from mowed grass to wildflowers).
Doing a trail hike is also more involving, with fewer distractions from the family time and fewer opportunities to shortcut back to the house.
To find trails in your area, check out Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, AllTrails.com, or Trails.com.
4. Refresh without refined sugarWhen you or your kids need a cool drink on a hot day, you don’t need to load up on unhealthy sugars or risky sugar substitutes. Avoid canned sodas or sugar-laden lemonades with one of these tasty, refreshing substitutes:
- Watermelon Mint Iced Tea – a refreshing fruit-based beverage.
- Real 100% fruit juice – Though fruit juice can have as many calories and carbohydrates as many soft drinks, it has much more nutritional value. Make it fresh squeezed fruit juice, and you’ll also benefit from a big dose of phytonutrients and antioxidants.
A couple reminders: why family fitness is importantNeed some extra health/fitness motivation? We’ve mentioned the benefits above, but here are the risks of not getting physical enough:
- Without a concerted effort, many kids will vegetate in front of the TV or iPhone. But check out these stats on why sitting can be bad for you.
- The CDC cautions that childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate: doubling in children and tripling in adolescents in 30 years.