Programs such as Health Zone Schools, developed by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas in partnership with The Cooper Institute®, help kids stay fit and active.

5 ways to keep your kids active during the summer months

by Terry Wagner, Special Contributor | May 24, 2019

Summer seems like a natural time for kids to be enjoying the great outdoors. But the reality is, many kids spend too much time inside during the summer months, logging more screen time than they do during the school year.

Think about all the digital screens your children see in a given day — from TVs to tablets to phones, wearables and computers. Now think about how much physical activity they’re getting. How do we get our kids to disconnect and keep them healthy and fit during the summer break?

The facts about activity

Today’s students are less active than ever before. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the average 19-year-old is as inactive as the average 60-year-old. This can lead to a wide variety of health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, vision problems, poor socialization skills and even some mental health issues — all of which can follow them into adulthood.

“Research suggests that both healthy and overweight or obese children tend to gain weight during the summer months, affecting overweight and obese children the most,” says Dr. Andjelka Pavlovic, Director of Youth Operations and Research at The Cooper Institute®. “This is likely due to temporary removal of structured physical activities such as physical education, sports clubs, recess and before/after school programs.”

During the school year, programs like Healthy Zone Schools help kids stay fit and active. Developed by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas in partnership with The Cooper Institute®, the program supports and rewards schools that promote healthy behaviors and provides over 150 schools with the tools and resources to create a health-conscious culture.

“The Healthy Zone School program is the start of a great success story in overcoming childhood obesity, one of the most pressing health issues of our time,” says Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton President and CEO, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “Together, we’re making tremendous strides in creating, sustaining and scaling healthy school environments to grow the next generation of healthier, high-achieving students.”

Regular physical activity and exercise are key to avoiding health issues across a child’s lifespan. So, during the summer months when kids lack organized school activities, parents and kids should focus on finding active alternatives.

How-Tos for a Healthy Summer

Instead of letting kids binge on Netflix and video games all summer, think about setting healthy limits and getting regular physical activity with these tips.

  1. Go screen-free 

Designate a few screen-free days each week or a certain time each day when all screens must be turned off. You can also designate certain areas of the house as screen-free zones like the dining room or bedroom. Then find new uses for that screen-free time to keep kids active.

  1. Enjoy the outdoors

Summer is a great time to be outdoors. Encourage kids to play outside instead of playing video games or watching TV all day. Help break the addiction to gaming by making them do a chore or some other form of physical activity for each half-hour of game time. Kids of all ages and abilities can join sports leagues, go to amusement parks, swimming or visit local playgrounds. North Texas is also full of hiking and biking trails the whole family can enjoy.

  1. Be the change

It’s easy to tell children what they should do, but are you following your own advice? Model good behavior by limiting your own screen time and getting more active. Put your phone down when the family is together. Ask them to go on a walk with you or play soccer in the backyard. Turn off the TV during dinner time. Change starts with you.

  1. Get help with chores

One of the simplest and most helpful ways for kids to stay fit is to help with the household chores. Vacuuming, dusting and cleaning are great ways to stay active, be helpful and learn responsibility. Make a chore list for the kids and then reward them with a fun outdoor activity for completing it. It’s a win-win for everyone.

  1. Provide healthy snacks 

Stock the pantry and refrigerator with healthy food options for hungry kids and their friends. Think fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy instead of junk food with high sugar and sodium. Give plenty of options for drinks that aren’t loaded with sugar and encourage kids to drink more water to stay hydrated.

For more information about the Healthy Zone School Program, or to find out how your school may become a Healthy Zone School, visit UnitedWayDallas.org/HealthyZone.

For a list of local activities that will keep your kids moving this summer, visit UnitedWayDallas.org/summerhealth.

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