March is National Nutrition Month.
While Nutrition is no doubt an integral piece of a healthy mind and body, exercise and movement is another imperative piece of both physical and mental health and the content of this Fitness Friday post. As temperatures rise and we have had a solid teaser of spring this week, there were more opportunities to be outdoors and find ways to move. After the addition of my third child and with three kids under 5, I ironically find it challenging to find solo time to exercise, while additionally feeling like I am ALWAYS moving and doing all of the herding, wrestling, and schlepping that accompanies parenting young children. I have to really look ahead at my week and plan and commit in my calendar when I can schedule in a solo workout, a time out that is always such a refreshing change of gears and does wonders for my outlook when I step back into the chaos that is homelife for me and plenty of America in the current Covid landscape. Is this relatable? If so, our Health Advisors can be of great support to you around this concept.
That said, I don't use that as an excuse to be sedentary and do look for every opportunity to fit MOVEMENT into my and my children's days whether its kicking the soccer ball or playing toss in the front yard or mini golf in back. We also make the 1.5 mile walk home from their school a few times a week if weather allows. Walking, in theory, is a great way for the parents and kids to exercise together fairly easily. Some days they have abounding energy, and others, they move at a snail's pace. But I've noticed having some healthy distractions keeps the pace and mood up; yesterday we counted how many birds nests we could spy on our walk home (9!), and those with school-age children can appreciate this sort of distraction could be a lot more motivating than just saying "let's take a walk".
Other ideas include buying some trash picker/grabber tools for young children and bringing along some bags to go for a walk and "clean up the neighborhood" while you're at it or making it through the ABCs using signs or license plates around your neighborhood. At the start of the pandemic, there were lots of creative ways circulating about how to entertain children through movement, from neighborhood or nature scavenger hunts templates to YouTube channels like GoNoodle and CosmicKids Yoga (parents and grandparents, take note!).
A year later, we have lost steam and hit walls for these sorts of activities, and it is no surprise that plenty of studies have found that kids are engaging in much more screen time than they were pre-pandemic. I snagged a copy of "The Science of Raising Happy Kids", a publication from the American Parenting Society, and was inspired by the Movement Matters article discussing the importance of physical activity for children's development at every age and stage.
The articles stated that just 21.6% of 6-19 year olds in the US get the recommended 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days a week according to the CDC.
Worth noting, that doesn't mean that they need a full 60 minutes of consecutive movement, but cumulatively throughout the day. I wanted to share some ideas excerpted from there along with my own, above, to restore some energy around this concept of creative ways to move as a family, as it has been the topic of many a Health Advising session. Try a combo of these to help your kids towards their goal of 60 minutes of daily movement 5 days a week. Finally, make FUN the goal and consistency will skyrocket.
1) Have a dance party. Download a playlist or ask Alexa to play some dance music and dance like no one is watching while dinner is cooking or while you're trying to fill that time between dinner and bedtime.
2) Build your own indoor obstacle course. This seems to be a favorite of my children whenever they have friends to play, usually involving some jumping from or on the couch. While I have to hover for safety purposes, the kids always have a blast and leave exhausted, which I count as wins.
3) Have a beanbag challenge. Walk around the house with a beanbag or pillow balanced on your head and see who can get the most laps with it in place, or try the same thing on the stairs without placing hands on the object.
4) Play balloon ball. This is great for younger children but keeps them up and moving, swinging. Many high tech toys don't stand a chance against the potential fun factor that an old fashion balloon offers.
5) Play hoops. Think after work driveway PIG, Around the World, or Knock it Out for some good ol' family fun.
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– Keeley Mezzancello, MS, RD, LDN, CHWC
Health Advisor, Registered Dietitian | Email Keeley