Here comes the sun. A brutal winter and less than impressive spring is finally giving way to summer conditions. Don’t let your children miss out on fresh air, warm temperatures and sunlight through fun, healthy outdoor activities.
Dr. Ed Laskowski and Dr. Michael Stuart, co-directors of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, are stressing the importance of keeping kids active this summer.
“Seventy percent of our kids do not get the physical activity they need for health and fitness, and over a third of our kids are either overweight or obese,” says Stuart, who also serves as USA Hockey’s chief medical officer. “Staying inside can promote more couch-potato activities. Natural Vitamin D from sunlight is a good thing also.”
Sunlight helps the body produce Vitamin D, which is essential for bone strength – crucial for youngsters – and other physiological functions.
How much activity each day?
Stuart and Laskowski recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity per day. At least three days of the week should include muscle-strengthening exercise, such as playing on the monkey bars, pushups, pull-ups, tug of war or weight training. Three days should include bone strengthening or “impact exercise,” which include most sports, along with running, hiking and jump rope.
But in the end, it’s all about getting the kids outside and active, no matter what they choose to do.
“Kids don’t have to play a specific sport to gain fitness,” says Stuart. “Any activity is good and contributes to better health. This can include playing games like tag or other informal play, as long as they are moving and active.”
Sometimes all kids need is an exciting idea or opportunity. Provide them the necessary equipment, tools, transportation, and, if necessary, instructions. Paying for a lesson or two might turn out to be an investment that pays off throughout the summer and maybe even for life.
Here are 15 sports/activities to explore and try out this summer.
Tennis. Grab a racquet and head to the local courts. Tennis requires skill work that can be very beneficial for hockey players – quickness, hand-eye coordination and endurance. Make it a weekly activity and build up your game. Play against one friend or get together a foursome and play doubles.
Jump rope. A fun bone-strengthening exercise that can be played by just one person or with several friends. This can also improve endurance, coordination and balance.
Chores. That’s right, chores. Mow the lawn. Help out with gardening. Assist with any other household projects. It not only keeps the child active, but teaches them lessons in hard work and responsibility outside of the usual sport scene. This could also be a good chance to bond.
Golf. It’s no secret. Hockey players tend to be big golfers. Many courses offer rental clubs and there are plenty of starter sets on the market. Most golf courses offer discounted “twilight” rates in the evenings. There are also many summer classes that kids can sign up for to help them learn the game from a professional while having fun with friends.
Lacrosse. Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in Minnesota and a great complement to hockey. There are leagues and clinics available for children as young as third graders.
Swimming. An activity for all ages, swimming offers a great all-around workout without excess joint or muscle stress. Swimming is also a lifelong skill that everyone should learn. If you have a boat on the lake, try tubing, knee/wakeboarding or water skiing. Is there a better way to stay cool in the summer?
Run/walk a 5K. Minnesota is well known for its races. Find a fun one and cheer your kid on – or better yet, join them! Races are typically on weekend mornings. Follow it up with a big breakfast and it’s a great way to start the day.
Soccer. Practice dribbling or try juggling in the yard on your own. Pass with a friend. Get a group together and play a game. Everyone can play soccer. All you need is a ball. Use hats, cones or other objects as goals if you’re not at a real field.
Hiking. Take advantage of Minnesota’s beauty through its unique variety of hiking trails. This is a great bone-strengthening activity that’s great for kids and adults.
Baseball/softball. Whether it’s joining an organized team or just playing with friends and family, baseball/softball can be a fun change of pace for hockey players. Play catch, work on fielding, hit off the tee or throw live batting practice. Many community leagues do not require a huge time commitment.
Fire up the sprinkler. Sometimes getting kids outside just takes a little H2O. It’s amazing how much fun kids can have running through the sprinkler. Add in a football, soccer ball or tennis ball to spice it up.
Tag. Youngsters love playing tag – with you or with their friends! An intense game can tire them out pretty quickly while improving quickness and endurance.
Balloons. Break out some balloons for the little ones to play with. Take turns hitting it back and forth. Watch them hit it as high in the sky as they can.
Basketball. Find a local outdoor court or play in your driveway. Practice shooting and dribbling on your own. Add in some fun team games and be creative.
Biking. Another activity for all ages. If it’s their first time, start out with training wheels. There are plenty of trails and paths available. Always stress safety and make sure they’re wearing a helmet.
USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey encourage all members to participate in other sports and activities.
“Different activities train different skills, like balance, coordination, strength, endurance and timing,” says Stuart. “These different activities can improve the skills needed for overall hockey ability. In addition, playing other sports is fun!”
Whatever activities your children participate in, the main goal is for them to have fun, enjoy the outdoors with friends and stay physically active. Once hockey season rolls around, they’ll feel fully refreshed and ready to lace up the skates for another great year!