Ways to Incorporate Exercise and Keep Your Kids Active This Summer
Dr. Sherrod wants parents to know that their own example of regular exercise can inspire their children and teens.
Children and teens can find opportunities to exercise at school whether they’re racing around the playground or sweating in gym class.
But what about during summer break, when there’s no recess or PE teacher to organize their workouts? How can parents motivate kids of all ages to stay physically active during the hottest months of the year?
The experts at Cook Children’s recommend making exercise a routine part of the day for the whole family. Aim for a variety of fun and simple ways to get everybody up and moving. Games that involve physical exertion – anything from playing tag, to jumping rope, or throwing a baseball – can strengthen the body and boost the mood.
At every well-child visit, Christina Sherrod, M.D. talks with her patients at Cook Children’s Pediatrics Southlake about the importance of physical activity for improving sleep, protecting against heart disease, preventing obesity and other health benefits. Dr. Sherrod encourages parents to be especially intentional about making exercise a priority during the months when school is out.
The best strategy to get children and teens off the couch, she said, is to do sports or other activities together. Go outside during the cooler morning and evening hours.
“Join in with your kid doing physical activity in a way that’s fun, and they don’t even realize they’re getting exercise while they’re doing it,” Dr. Sherrod said.
As a mom to 9 and 7-year-olds, Dr. Sherrod speaks with experience about favorite ways to burn energy with kids in the summer. Her family likes to swim, throw water balloons, run through the sprinkler, and kick around the soccer ball. Do what you enjoy, she advises.
“For people who didn’t care for P.E. class, when they think of physical activity it sounds like a negative,” she said. If going for a 30-minute run doesn’t sound appealing, she suggests to her adolescent patients that they walk the dog, stroll around the mall, go on a hike, sign up for a dance class, or try yoga.
Dr. Sherrod wants parents to know that their own example of regular exercise can inspire their children and teens. Also, screen time should be limited. Too much TV, computer games and scrolling on social media contribute to a habit of sedentary choices.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 60 minutes or more of exercise for children and adolescents each day. Benefits of regular physical activity include building strength in muscles and bone density, more flexibility, improved coordination, leaner body mass and increased stamina. Physical activity also helps promote self-esteem and psychological well-being.
The AAP provides this exercise guidance:
- The emphasis for preschoolers should be on play. Motor skills such as hopping, climbing and skipping help young children develop coordination and balance. “Engaging young children in structured and unstructured play promotes the joy of movement, a sense of control and the ability to navigate the body through space.”
- For older children and teens, include moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activities such as dancing, bicycling and basketball. Focus on skill development more than the competition.
- Encourage children with special health concerns to participate as much as they’re able, allowing for adaptations that create a positive experience.
- Guard against sunburn, heat exhaustion and dehydration by taking precautions outdoors in the summer. Use sunscreen. Drink lots of fluids.
Todd Johnson, M.D. at Cook Children’s Pediatrics Allen highlighted the role of exercise in developing resilience, mindfulness and the ability to manage stress. Physical activity can also build self-confidence and social interaction with peers, Dr. Johnson said.
He points out that exercise can be incorporated into everyday life, including chores and responsibilities around the house.
“Sometimes we think physical activity is something that has to be structured and complex, and there are too many moving parts, and we get discouraged,” Dr. Johnson said. “But it can be as simple as planting flowers together, pulling weeds, riding bikes.”
The recommended 60 minutes can occur throughout the day in smaller increments. Eating and sleeping habits tend to improve when children and adolescents get regular exercise, he said.
“It helps teenagers with their energy levels. It spaces out eating so that they have better hunger cues. They’re better at drinking water when they’re out and active in the summertime, and it’s easier to structure a normal bedtime.”
The father of seven children – ages 21, 18, 15, 12, 10, 6, and 3 – Dr. Johnson sees a wide range of interest and ability when it comes to physical fitness. His older children prefer team sports and camps while the younger ones enjoy parks and zoos. As a general rule in the Johnson household, everyone goes outdoors to kick balls, shoot baskets, swim or do other activities before they get on their electronic devices.
Dr. Johnson urges families to explore local parks, museums and hiking trails not only as an exercise outing but to create happy memories and traditions. His own kids made a bucket list that includes kite flying and miniature golf.
The bottom line is to help students stay in shape over the summer … play active games, aim for an hour daily, and set boundaries on phone/computer use. Dr. Sherrod emphasized the fun factor and simplicity of hide-and-seek or soccer in the yard.
“Parents tend to know the importance of exercise, and kids seem to be aware as well. But all of us need reminders to stay on track and continue healthy habits,” she said.
Christina Sherrod. M.D.
Christina Sherrod, M.D. is welcoming new patients in Southlake.
Finding the right pediatrician is an important part of making sure your child receives the best possible care in the right setting for you. That’s why at Cook Children’s Pediatrics Southlake, we take the time to listen to you and your child, answer questions and help you navigate parenthood.
From well visits, vaccines and physicals to growing pains, asthma, diet and behavioral issues, Dr. Sherrod welcomes new patients at 480 Southlake Blvd. in Southlake.
Todd Johnson, M.D.
Todd Johnson, M.D. is welcoming new patients in Allen.
Finding the right pediatrician is an important part of making sure your child receives the best possible care in the right setting for you. That’s why at Cook Children's Pediatrics Allen, we take the time to listen to you and your child, answer questions and help you navigate parenthood. “I value working alongside the family to understand their needs and help them sift through medical information,” Dr. Johnson said. “As a father of seven children, I understand the importance of having someone to support you through your child’s growth, illness and health challenges.”
From well visits, vaccines and sniffles to growing pains, asthma, diet and behavioral issues, Dr. Johnson welcomes new patients at 1710 N. Greenville Ave, Suite 110 in Allen.