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Cathy Strasser's Play Strong Column

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During the last month this column has focused on fitness in general and children's fitness specifically. This final column will focus on how to incorporate fitness into your life without having to set aside large chunks of time to do so.

Monday: Work with the kids to create "Activity Cubes" -- a set of dice where each face on one of the dice has an activity on it such as jumping jacks, jogging in place, hop in place, push-ups or sit-ups; and the other has time frames (such as one, two or three minutes) or repetitions (such as five times, 10 times, etc). Use the dice throughout the day such as before breakfast or dinner, before starting homework -- or as a break during homework! -- or before watching TV. Use cardboard from cereal boxes to cut out 12 four-inch by four-inch sides. Use six pieces for the activities and six pieces for the time frames and write the choices down. Tape the "dice" together and you're ready to go! More ideas than can fit on two dice? Make as many dice as you have ideas and switch them around!

Tuesday: Television is often seen as a large cause of the recent decline in fitness. While limiting time in front of the television is an excellent idea, there are also ways to use TV time to encourage movement. Television shows come with built in movement breaks -- commercials! Make it a rule that whenever the TV is on, everyone uses the commercials for mini-exercise sessions. Use the Activity Cubes for this, or set up a simple schedule: first commercial is marching in place, second is jumping jacks, and third is push-ups or whatever exercises you prefer. Want to watch more than one show? Then jog/skip/gallop around the house three to five times (depending on the size of your house and the age of the kids) to earn the next show!

Wednesday: Work on improving balance and mobility skills by declaring "Daily Rules." Each day when moving from room to room or activity to activity, instead of just walking have the kids walk on tiptoe, or hop, or walk backwards, or skip, or walk heel to toe. Have the kids invent their own zany walks, like touch your opposite elbow to each knee as you walk, or pat your head as you walk. Or declare animal walk day and try crab walking, duck walking or frog hopping. Rotate the choice of who makes the Daily Rule throughout the family, and don't forget to participate too!

Thursday: Challenge your kids to find ways to bring fitness into all their everyday activities. Try doing chair push-ups before or after dinner. Sit in a chair, lift your feet off the floor, and try to push your weight up and off the chair using just your arms. (This is a nice office desk exercise too!) Can they balance on each foot for a count of 10 or 20 while they brush their teeth? Can they stand on tiptoe while they comb their hair? How about push-ups or sit-ups while getting dressed? Ask for additional ideas and see what they come up with!

Friday: As a general fitness rule, start each day with 10 repetitions of deep breathing. Have everyone stand up straight with feet apart, shoulders back and one hand on their abdomen just below the belly button. Breathe in deeply through the nose until you feel your belly expand, hold for a moment, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. This is a great de-stressing and focusing exercise and a wonderful preparation for any type of strenuous activity. The next rule is to stay well hydrated. Make sure everyone has some type of water bottle that is accessible throughout the day to improve alertness and concentration. The final rule -- have fun! Fitness seen as work won't last, find the physical activity you enjoy and get up and get moving!

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