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An Echo Press Editorial: Stow the screens, get moving instead

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

EP Echo Press Editorial
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Parents: Don’t let the lazy days of summer turn your children into couch potatoes.

Find some interesting activities that get them moving – indoors and outdoors.

In its “Talking with the U of M” newsletter, the University of Minnesota focused on the importance of engaging young children to be more active during the summer months.

In a question-and-answer interview, Daheia Barr-Anderson , an associate professor in the university’s School of Kinesiology, shared her expertise:

Q: Why is it important for children to remain active in the summertime?

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Barr-Anderson: Regardless of the season, it is important for children to be physically active for the myriad physical, emotional, mental and psychological benefits that result from moving your body on a regular basis. However, in the summer when children may have less structured activities scheduled, it is imperative for parents to keep their children moving – whether with structured activities such as sports and sports camps or unstructured activities such as dedicated time at the local park or community pool. During the long days of summer – filled with sunshine but no seven-hour school day – some children may have lots of unstructured time that can easily be filled with sedentary screen time. Parents must be extra intentional to provide opportunities for their children to be active for at least an hour each day.

Q: How much daily activity is recommended for children?

Barr-Anderson: For children aged 3-5 years, the National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend preschoolers to move their bodies in structured and unstructured active play at all intensities (light, moderate and vigorous) for at least three hours per day. For this population, almost any and all movement counts towards the minimum recommendation. Guidelines for older children aged 6-17 are more specific. The goal is at least 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity with most of that 60 minutes spent doing aerobic activities and on at least three of those days, it should include muscle- and bone-strengthening activities, such as running, jumping and skipping. Regardless of the age, it is imperative for children to engage in a variety of fun and age- and developmentally-appropriate activities.

Q. What are some good summertime activities both outdoors and indoors?

Barr-Anderson: Outdoor activities include:Playing at parks and playgrounds, biking, swimming, walking/running/hiking, structured sports (softball, baseball, soccer, etc.), tennis, jumping rope, yoga (outdoor yoga during the summer is simply awesome!) and the list goes on. As long as you are moving your body in a fun and enjoyable manner in the sunshine, children are winning!

Children can beat the heat at indoor parks and playgrounds. Depending on the space available at local community centers and indoor recreational centers, many of the outdoor activities listed above can be performed indoors – although biking might be a little challenging! If indoor space is limited to at home, physically active video games and dancing are viable options.

Q: How can parents and other caregivers support their children in physical activity?

Barr-Anderson: If it falls within the family budget, it can be easy for parents to outsource their children’s physical activity by enrolling them into various sports and summer camps and have skilled professionals (or zealous teenagers) oversee their children’s physical activity. However, this is not feasible for every family, so the most important support from parents and caregivers will be their sheer presence. Grab your children and be physically active with them. Go for a walk after dinner.

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Plenty of outdoor opportunities are available throughout Douglas County – parks, playgrounds, beaches, the Central Lakes Trail, scouting, museums, to name just a few. Parents and their young children should break out of their summer slump and explore those places together.

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By the Echo Press Editorial Board
By the Echo Press Editorial Board