As parents, most of us are aware of the growing obesity epidemic among American children. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “12.5 million children are overweight in the United States—more than 17 percent.”
Overweight children are at greater risk for many serious health and psychological problems such as asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, behavior problems and trouble sleeping.
For most children, being overweight is the result of unhealthy eating patterns, such as too many calories and not enough physical activity. Since these habits are established in early childhood, efforts to prevent obesity should begin early.
So what can you do to ensure your child will maintain a healthy weight all the way through adulthood? Lead by example. As a family, begin engaging your child in fun activities that revolve around fitness. Remember the importance of role modeling and always place emphasis on what you do so that your child can follow your behavior.
Here are a few simple, low-cost activity ideas to get you and your family on the right track to a healthy, active lifestyle.
1. Cool off with a dip in the pool: Your kids will have a blast at in Scotts Valley and won’t even know they are exercising. Dive for toys, have relay races or play Marco Polo, and have a fun-filled day at your neighborhood pool.
2. Take a hike in the redwoods: Activities abound at Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Take a family hike on one of the many trails that range from wide fire-roads to hidden single-track paths that weave in and out of the lush redwoods. Don’t forget to stop near river crossings for some rock hopping or rock skipping!
3. Bike ride along West Cliff Drive: As with hiking, this is a great activity for all ages. Park on Bay Avenue and follow West Cliff Drive, which meanders along the ocean bluffs offering beautiful vistas. Turn around at Natural Bridges State Beach and stop at Lighthouse State Field for a picnic, or watch the surfers navigate the big waves. This bike ride is five miles, round trip.
4. Geocaching: Geocaching is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasures, best suited for children ages 5 and up. A geocacher places a geocache (quarter, toy, note, bottle cap) in a container anywhere in the world, pinpoints its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. Providing you have a GPS unit, this activity will be free, and you and your family will get plenty of exercise while you hike around in search of the cache.
Keep in mind that not all children are created equal. One sibling may be mathematically inclined, while the other may be a soccer star on the field. With this in mind, partake in activities that will be fun for the whole family, without making the less athletically inclined family member feel like a failure. This will defeat the purpose of fun family fitness.
When you pursue fitness together as a family, you benefit in other ways, too. Your children will remember and treasure family outings, going swimming at the local pool and taking family bike rides. Your family will build good health habits and ever-lasting childhood memories while having fun.