Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy and Active in the Fall

by Dan Gilbert

As technology has progressed over the past 30 years, society has moved from an active and healthy lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle, with most free time and recreational time spent sitting in front of a TV or computer. Some of the earliest adopters of these new technologies are children, who are experiencing an obesity and health epidemic that has never been seen before. The National Institute of Health recommends that children engage in a physically strenuous activity for at least one hour per day, and engage in several hours of non-strenuous activity every day. Most children do not meet these guidelines for exercise.

In addition, poor diet has had a negative impact on children’s health. The proliferation of fast food, high calorie drinks made with high-fructose corn syrup, and unhealthy high-calorie snacks have all had an extremely negative impact on children’s health over the past few decades. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 16- 33% of children and adolescents are obese today in the United States. In some areas, the obesity rate for children is over 30%.

There are many health benefits for exercise and physical activity in addition to preventing obesity. Childhood is a very important time for developing many motor skills and coordination, and physical activities that stimulate motor activities are an integral part of a healthy development cycle. In addition, physical activity has been shown to boost academic skills, as the same skills used in physical activities and sports carry over to the classroom.

“The amount of time children spend daily in physical activity is decreasing, and it will take a determined effort from parents to reverse this trend,” says Dr. Stephen Sanders, author, professor, and director of the School of Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of South Florida and is member of the Primrose Schools Education Advisory Board.

Children learn through imitation, and need guidance from a role model in developing healthy eating habits and lifestyles. Presenting children with fun and engaging challenges, providing healthy food, and giving them the opportunities to explore the world around them can be invaluable steps on the road towards a healthy future.

The Grivel-Smits Family of Ellicott City hiking the Maryland portion of the Appalachian Trail, part of a Howard County Recreation and parks program.

Autumn Activities for Families
There are many fall activities that are great for families, physically engaging and challenging, and help create family bonds and memories that will last a lifetime.

Geo-caching
Geo-caching is a worldwide treasure hunt, set up by people all over the globe. With the advent of Global Positioning System, it is possible to create a set of coordinates that can be found by anyone who has a GPS unit. Geo-caching is scavenger hunt, with individuals placing “caches” at different points all around the world, entering the coordinates for the cache location on geo-caching websites, and letting others experience the excitement and anticipating of finding these hidden caches. There are thousands of geo-caches hidden on rural trails, mountainsides, hiking locales, and different outdoor environments all over the world. Locating and finding one of these caches with a child can be a magical experience to share as a family. It’s a great way to get out, exercise, and have some fun and is more engaging than any video game!

Kayaking and Water-Activities
Kayaking is a great family activity for children of all ages. Canoes and kayaks can be rented for very affordable rates (less than $40 for a family package from many outfitting companies, including transportation). Kayaking can be an extremely rewarding family experience in the fall, with beautiful scenery from the leaf changes combined with the idyllic beauty of a river. River rafting and kayaking can teach valuable physicals skills, can increase motor coordination, and enhances a child’s sense of teamwork and camaraderie.

Building a Project as a Family
One of the most rewarding activities for a child is working on a challenging project, and being able to see the result of their hard work. Building a tree house, renovating an old car, building a go cart, or helping a child to build furniture can be one of the most valuable experiences a child can have. For younger children, simple outdoor activities such as a helping with fall gardening, simple projects with safe tools, etc can be rewarding. Older children may enjoy more involved activities, where they can take on more individual initiative.

There are many activities that families can engage in together to help build a healthy and active lifestyle. By planting the seeds to encourage this at a young age, parents can create an environment of personal growth and development that will continue through the rest of their children’s lives, allowing them to experience success and the sense of accomplishment of living fulfilling lives.

Editors Note: In addition to Howard County General Hospital and the Howard County Library System, other local resources for active family fun include non-profit organizations such as The Howard County Conservancy and local retail outfitters such as L.L.Bean, REI and Terrapin Adventures. Of course, don’t forget to check out Howard County Recreation and Parks and our newly opened Robinson Nature Center!  Finally- each Friday the Well & Wise blog posts upcoming activities that might encourage the family to get out and get active!

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Guest blogger, Dan Gilbert, has written a number of articles on topics varying from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteering. Dan currently serves as the communications director for Primrose schools, which helps individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early child care services and education.


1 Comment

  1. Some nice steps here. Couldn’t agree more, people need to get out of the house more.

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