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Catherine Holecko

Family Fitness

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Celebrate national parks

Thursday April 17, 2014

Girl hiking in the woodsThis Saturday, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation kicks off National Park Week in the USA. The theme for this year's celebration is "Go Wild"! Celebrations include:

  • Fee-free entrance days this weekend (April 19 and 20)
  • Special events at the parks all week: tours, classes, walks, and more
  • Extra Junior Ranger* activities for kids, especially on National Junior Ranger Day (April 26)
  • Premiere week for Disneynature's new "true life adventure" movie, "Bears." It was filmed in several national parks in Alaska, and for every ticket sold during opening week, Disneynature will make a donation to the National Park Foundation.

*The Junior Ranger program helps kids and families get more out of their visits to National Park Service sites through hands-on, guided, and self-guided activities.

Photo: Catherine Holecko

Earth Day idea: Swap your sports gear

Tuesday April 15, 2014

Little League baseball catcher with protective gearSpring sports are upon us and Earth Day is next week. So it's the perfect time to do some reusing and recycling via a sports gear swap. It's easy: bring outgrown equipment (or, let's face it, stuff your child has simply lost interest in) to a swap so another child can use it. While you're there, catch some deals of your own: Pick up gently used gear that your kid can use now. It's a win-win for families, and can even serve as a fundraiser for your youth sports organization.

Find out how to organize your own sports gear swap. It's simple to do and brings benefits to your whole community--not to mention Mother Earth.

Photo: Ryan McVay / Getty Images

Active games for your Easter party

Thursday April 10, 2014

boy with Easter basketFor the past few years, my family has been lucky enough to attend an Easter egg hunt hosted by a family with a lot of land--and a lot of eggs to hide. The kids have a great time roaming the property in search of eggs and treats.

But of course, egg hunts aren't the only way to enjoy an Easter party. I've rounded up nine more ways to have fun as you celebrate Easter with kids. All of these Easter games and activities require physical activity, so get hopping!

Photo: Stockbyte / Getty Images

The old-school way to get to school

Monday April 7, 2014

Now that spring is maybe, kinda, sorta, almost here, my kids and I are really looking forward to biking and walking to school once again. While it's a short trip, I don't allow my third-grader to travel alone because of some tricky street crossings. I should probably lobby our city for a crossing guard. Modifications like that may "both promote walking and make it safer," says a study just published online in the journal Pediatrics. The study also declared that "Walking to school over a short distance was found to be relatively safe in Toronto," where the researchers gathered their data.

This study also had an accompanying commentary, which made some thoughtful points. Here's what Drs. Gilbert Chien Liu and Jason Mendoza had to say in their article, titled "There and Back Again: Safety and Health on the Journey to School": "This Canadian study is among the first to reveal that a higher rate of children walking or biking to school has no significant association with traffic-related injury. This is welcome and important evidence for policy-makers ... and for activists. ... Active school transportation is an 'old school' form of physical activity that more children should adopt."

Host an active birthday party

Thursday April 3, 2014

It's birthday week at our house: Each child is celebrating one, and for good measure they designated the same two days as birthdays for our newly adopted dogs.

Between the new pups, spring break, and Easter coming up, we are keeping our parties very simple this year. Our son will do a movie night and our daughter will have a few girls sleep over. But in past years, we've had a lot of fun with active birthday parties: we've done karate, ice skating, and a sports theme at a gym. Easy and fun--and there's less guilt about loading guests up with ice cream and cake!

Double dog dare

Tuesday April 1, 2014

Two little black dogs on a bedIn what may seem to be an April Fool's joke (but isn't!), our family adopted not one, but two little dogs this weekend. That's what happens when the shelter manager says "There's a discount for two!" in front of your kids. So we're getting used to having pups in the house again, and taking lots and lots of walks.

Once the dogs know some basic training and manners, we can move on to other tricks and activities for kids and dogs to share. The picture shows them looking deceptively calm, by the way! Does having a dog help your family stay active?

Photo: Catherine Holecko

Just like Mom

Tuesday March 25, 2014

When moms are more active, so are their preschool-age daughters, and sons too. That's the finding of a study published online yesterday in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers in the U.K. studied over 500 four-year-olds and their mothers by having them wear accelerometers night and day for a week. The devices measured how much time they spent being sedentary, in light physical activity, and in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

For every extra minute moms were active, their preschoolers had 10% more moderate to vigorous physical activity. This effect was more pronounced on the weekends. And while there was no data collected for dads or siblings, "both parents being active may have a greater effect on their child's activity than the sum of their individual parts," the study says, so "active siblings may further encourage activity in young children."

New parents tend to be less active than childless adults. Only about half the mothers in the study got enough daily activity (at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise) on one or more of the study days. So there's room for improvement. Interestingly, the researchers also noted that kids might also be able to influence moms to move more, too.

Need ideas for what to do together? Try these 5 activities to share, or these 12 ways to improve your preschooler's gross motor skills.

The power of home cooking

Thursday March 20, 2014

Since its inception in 2010, I've been following the progress of Let's Move, First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to solve the childhood obesity problem. It's a far-reaching effort that includes everything from the organic garden on the grounds of the White House to partnerships with food and beverage companies and grocery chains, schools and childcare centers, religious organizations and museums, local governments, and much more.

Last week, Mrs. Obama announced a new effort: "It's a simple idea which will be a key focus of Let's Move over the next year," she said, "but it is an idea that can help families create healthier new habits: ... start cooking again." As she acknowledged, this is not an "earth-shattering," unique new option. But it is powerful: "Research clearly shows that home-cooking is one of the single most impactful ways for families to improve their health," Mrs. Obama said.

It's certainly not always easy to plan, shop for, and prepare nutritious meals at home. (I, for one, am awful at meal planning.) But doing so can really pay off in improving your family's health and even your budget. Whenever I come across a recipe I'd like to try, I pin it to my "Eat" board on Pinterest. Check it out and let me know if you find any new favorites!

Keep MRSA away

Tuesday March 18, 2014

With four people in our household who exercise regularly, I do a lot of laundry. And it's not just for the sake of our noses (and those around us). Washing workout wear, as well as hands and bodies, can help keep germs at bay--from the common cold to the more dangerous MRSA.

Especially if your child shares a locker room or weight room with others, or has skin-to-skin contact with teammates or opponents, you need to be aware of this bacteria. Learn what MRSA is and how to protect your athletes from infection. That means finding out what coaches and facilities are doing to promote hygiene and stave off staph infections, too.

What you can when you can

Thursday March 13, 2014

Have you heard of #wycwyc? This hashtag/abbreviation stands for "What you can, when you can." It's a reminder that when it comes to fitness, nutrition, and other healthy goals and practices, a little goes a long way. Intention is meaningful, but beating yourself up isn't.

So if, for example, a sick kid means I can't go to my regular yoga class, I don't give up on yoga for the day. I practice on my own at home. That's #wycwyc. Or if I know my kids will be going to an event where they'll eat ice cream, I don't tell them they can't have the treat. Instead I focus on what they eat for the rest of the day and make sure they get maximum nutrition. That's #wycwyc. I read about it a few months ago, and haven't stopped thinking about it since!

You can visit the wycywyc website (linked above) for inspiration, and tag your own tweets and Instagram pics with the hashtag so they'll be promoted. What can you do today?

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