Summer provides kids that all-important break from the routine, but replacing activities with prolonged couch time could become a tough habit to crack, and one that can have an effect on youngsters’ health.
Instead of absorbing as much screen time as possible, health officials advocate kids drop the virtual reality in favor of old-fashion physical activity to get the heart pumping and legs working to promote healthy lifestyles.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children between 6 and 17 should participate in a minimum 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Regular physical activity in childhood can improve strength and endurance, helps bolster bodily systems, curbs weight gain, reduces anxiety and can boost self-esteem, the agency reported.
“Obesity is such a concern in our country and here in Kentucky,” said April Dunning, physician assistant at Mercy Pediatrics. “I try to set small goals for families, and 60 minutes total a day isn’t that much, and they can do it just a little bit at a time if they want.”
Dunning recommended families exercise together, and be creative in their choice of activities. Parking in the farthest parking spot from the store, taking the stairs instead of an elevator or even dancing vigorously to music can be simple and effective ways to add exercise throughout the day.
For those kids wanting to kick their activity level up a notch over the summer, the Mercy Pediatrics Kids’ Triathlon on July 20, and the six-week training program preceding the event, provide kids — aged 7-14 — an opportunity to get active and tackle a life accomplishment.
Amy Peal, triathlon coordinator, said the training program helps instruct children in the proper way to run, bike and swim long distances in preparation for the annual race.
“We like to emphasize that they’re really competing against themselves, because the goal is to finish,” Peal said. “We want to teach them the pleasures of physical activity and healthy lifestyles.”
The kids’ triathlon is divided into two age categories with different distances, and each finisher of the race receives a commemorative medal, race bib and shirt. Children aged 7-10 compete in a 100 yard swim, 5k bike ride and 1k run, while children 11-14 compete in a 200 yard swim, 10k bike ride and 2k run. Peal expects more than 70 children to enroll for the event.
The training sessions cost $25, and are held at 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday at Noble Park.
For more information on the triathlon or training program, contact the Rehab Associates Foundation at 270-442-4396.
Contact Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.