Blogs > Simply Fit

Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Have Kids, Will Walk

Parenting requires you to tap into your creative energies and to foster your problem solving skills like never before in order to overcome the biggest of challenges that the littlest of the human race can generate. This holds true when it comes to finding a balance between family time and exercise time. Family walks are a great solution. Incorporating games and other activities into your family walks can keep boredom (and complaints) at bay. Here are a few creative walking games and activities that can motivate and entertain the kids while you are out on a family trek:
  • Guided Tour: Children love to role play. Get them interested in the family walk by allowing them to take turns as the tour guide of your walking adventure. Have your child lead the walk and point out the "attractions" along the way. For instance, if the family's favorite ice cream shop is on your route, your child could say "And here to your left is where the best fruit smoothies are made in town."
  • Scavenger Hunt: The thrill of discovery can motivate. Prior to setting out on your walk, find a small pad of paper and pencil that your child can carry during the walk. On the paper, write a list of items that your child is to look for on your walking path, such as flowers, interesting stones, colorful birds and rabbits. As she finds each item, have her check it off the list.
  • Traveling for Treasure: Who says you have to leave the yard to get in a good walk? Traveling for Treasure requires a family member to hide a small object, such as a stuffed toy, somewhere in your yard. Once hidden, the hider draws a map with clues as to where the item can be found. The seekers then follow the map and walk to the hidden treasure. Once the item is found, the game is continued with another family member assuming the role of the hider.
  • Scrapbook Adventure: Children are more likely to maintain an active lifestyle into adulthood when positive associations with exercise have been formed starting at a young age. You can foster this by having your child create a walking scrapbook or journal. Bring a camera on your walk and take pictures of interesting finds along the way. Have your child collect leaves, pine cones, flowers, etc., found on the walk. At the end of your trek, let your child arrange and glue the items into a scrapbook. Also, encourage your child to write down a few thoughts about the walk to help bring back positive memories when the scrapbook is perused at a later date.
  • Tangible Rewards: It can be difficult for children to grasp the importance of regular exercise, particularly in reference to chronic diseases, which may not manifest until adulthood. Providing your children with an incentive that can be experienced in the present or immediate future may help to foster compliance. Include a destination, such as a favorite relative's house, into the family walk to help give the activity a more concrete purpose. Or, hold an award ceremony after a certain number of family walks have been completed. Certificates can be handed out for various achievements accomplished during the walks (e.g., best "tour guide").
Family walks are a great solution to the time constraints parents face. To learn more about the benefits of walking or to locate a walking path in your area, visit the website of Every Body Walk!. To find more information about children and exercise, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

PACES in a Family Journey Toward Better Health

Get healthy and be part of a kindred spirit this Saturday, May 7, 2011 by joining the PACES Day initiative, which puts family fitness at the forefront in the fight against obesity. PACES (Parents and Children Exercise Simultaneously) Day was introduced 4 years ago by Len Saunders, an award winning author and creator of the successful campaign, Project ACES (All Children Exercise Simultaneously), which just celebrated its 23rd year of uniting millions of children through simultaneous exercise activities in classrooms worldwide. Project ACES is celebrated each year on the first Wednesday in May. Saunders, who majored in Physical Education at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and who has a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology from Montclair State University in New Jersey, stated that the concept of PACES Day arose from numerous requests from parents who were pleased with Project ACES and wanted a program that included adult participation.

The PACES Day initiative involves parents committing to setting aside 15 to 45 minutes every Saturday to exercise with their children as part of quality family time. The main PACES Day event that kick starts this weekly trend occurs on the first Saturday in May after the Project ACES celebration. Saunders selected Saturdays for the PACES Day initiative because weekends are usually designated for family time in many households. "Family time is different than what is was 20 to 30 years ago," he stated during our recent phone interview. "Now, both parents are out of the house working until late...and kids are not getting out enough [to exercise]."

PACES Day blends family time with fitness fun. Family exercise time doesn't need to be elaborate or costly to be beneficial. In fact, Saunders explained that when exercise is made out to be too complex, it can be a turn-off and individuals opt not to do it. He pointed out that "exercise needs to be doable." He promotes walking as the best form of exercise. Saunders noted that when concerned families ask him what is the best way to manage body weight, his reply is "Eliminate the liquid calories [i.e., unnecessary sugar- and/or fat-laden drinks such as soda pop, dessert coffee drinks, etc.,] and go for a walk for 30 minutes."

Saunders raised another point to keep in mind when getting kids physically active. "The approach to exercise for kids has to be different than that for the adult. Kids like novel and fun activities," he explained. Saunders' website for the PACES Day initiative offers suggestions for family-friendly fitness activities to do throughout the year to keep kids motivated to exercise. He also noted that when kids see their parents and other kids and their families exercising too, it motivates them. This is one reason why Project ACES and PACES Day are such a success--"kids like to know that others are doing it with them," Saunders explained.

To sign your family up to join PACES Day this Saturday, May 7, 2011 and to learn more about this initiative, visit the website at http://www.pacesday.com/.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

Reference
Len Saunders, physical education expert in the field of children's health, fitness and wellness; Phone Interview on May 5, 2011.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Fall Fitness Fun For Families

The research is compelling, better health comes from less time sitting and more time spent being active during leisure periods of the day. It's all too easy to decrease your activity level when the season changes from warmer to cooler; but, the end of summer doesn't mean an end to active pursuits. The cool, crisp days of fall are full of opportunities to get out and get active. Try these family fall activities that provide fun and fitness:
  • Take A Fall Colors Hiking or Biking Tour. What better way to experience Nature's beauty than to experience it first hand.  Reap the cardiovascular benefits of a hike or bike ride while stimulating your senses of sight, smell, and sound.  To find a tour where you can actively enjoy the beauty of the colorful trees, the sweet scent of their foliage, and the gentle crunching of fallen leaves underfoot, visit MichiganRing.com. Or, if you prefer a self-guided endeavor, visit MetroParks.com.
  • Go Apple Picking. Apple picking is an activity that truly offers sweet rewards. It not only works your legs as you walk around the orchard, but it strengthens your arms and core as you pick and carry the apples. To find an orchard near you visit AllAboutApples.com.
  • Visit a Pumpkin Patch. The search for that great pumpkin will get your heart pumping as you trek through the patch.  To help you pick the best pumpkin visit PumpkinPatchesAndMore.org.
  • Navigate a Corn Maze. Will you be able to find your way? Take an adventure through a corn maze to challenge your wit while you get fit.  For more information, visit CornMazesAmerica.com.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

"Home is Where the 'Healthy' Heart Is"

     I realized this weekend that the saying "home is where the heart is" holds true for me.  These past few days also confirmed for me that a healthy heart is more than just a physically fit heart.  It is one that is filled with content, validation, appreciation, and love.  
     What prompted these insights?  We are visiting my parents who are "snow-birding" in St. Augustine, Florida.  I have never been to the condominium unit that they are renting; nor have I ever been to St. Augustine.  Yet, I feel like I have come home.  My parents' bikes are parked in the entrance way.  I am reminded of the family bike rides we took when I was a child.
     Much of our family time growing up was oriented around some type of physical activity.  Whether it was a family hike, a cross-country skiing trip or a day of swimming we did it as a family.  Strong family bonds and great memories were created from these adventures that have carried over into my adulthood.
     I am a strong believer that the steps toward a healthy heart start with family-oriented fitness.  I attribute my own journey toward better health and fitness to the healthy habits my parents instilled in me as a child.  I hope to pass this example on to my children.
     An important component to make family fitness successful is to create an exercise experience that provides physical activity without you or your child thinking about it as getting exercise.  In our celebration of "World Day for Physical Activity" today we did just that.  After the adults engaged in their own exercise sessions this morning, we took the kids for a walk along the beach.  As we walked, the kids were focused on collecting shells and running into the waves.  Exercise was the last thing on their minds, yet they were getting it.  Their memory of this event will be "Do you remember when we visited Grandma and Grandpa and collected shells on the beach?" - not the 45 minute walk on which their search took them.
     I admire my parents for the lessons that they have taught me during our family fitness time.  I am in awe that their own personal journeys toward better fitness have led them to good health and the ability to take walks, play, and go for a swim with their grandchildren.  My hope, as my children embark on their own journeys toward better fitness and health, is for them to develop a sense that no matter the location of the heart they are always at home, especially with a healthy heart.  

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