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Fitness activities the entire family can enjoy

Fitness begins at a young age

When I was a young child, on decent weather days, I was allowed to go out into the acres of Douglas fir woodland in my neighborhood and play and pretend my heart out until Mother called me in for lunch. My siblings, friends, and I would hike up and down the rugged, forested hillsides playing made up challenges. We would climb the tall homemade ladder my dad built with leftover 2x4s he nailed into an ancient maple tree behind our house. At the top of the ladder, he built a secure landing for us that we immediately turned into our imaginary private fort. After lunch, we’d pop onto our bicycles and pedal up and down the hilly access roads and driveways until Mother called us back for dinner.

During the summers, our family would occasionally descend an even steeper hillside on more home-built ladders until we reached our rocky, barnacled beach. We’d take a picnic lunch and whatever else was needed for the day. My father’s rule was once we got down to the beach there was no going back up (and back down) again until it was time for all of us to head home, exhausted from our beach-combing and swimming – yes, swimming (I learned how to swim in those frigid waters).

The clams, we’d shoveled out of their sandy homes earlier, were placed in a bucket and hauled up with us on those same rickety, vertically-oriented ladders at the end of the day – to enjoy after steaming the following day.

What a joyful childhood I had. The point is I got lots of fresh air and more than plenty of exercise during those young years and into my teens.

Fitness for all

By now, we should all be aware that keeping our bodies fit plays a major factor in maintaining good overall health. Being physically active directly works in tandem with healthy eating, weight control and managing blood sugars, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Be mindful of sedentary activities

In these days of the ever-increasing popularity of sitting for hours at a time gaming, staring at iPads, smartphones and giant television screens, young people and adults are at risk of losing bone strength and joint flexibility.

Steps to a healthier lifestyle for families

Above all, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) stresses that “exercise should be fun!” Between school activities, holding down jobs and all of the other things that can consume a family’s day, slowly introducing exercise and physical activity helps introduce fitness into daily routines.

They also recommend:

  • Choosing new activities on a regular basis. Raking leaves, walking the dog and household upkeep all serve two purposes: getting some exercise and being rewarded by doing a job that might otherwise feel like a chore.
  • Encouraging parents and grandparents to model active behavior by joining the kids for a bike ride or a long walk.
  • Cultivate the children’s attention to trying out a range of different sports and activities, such as: tennis, dancing, soccer and bowling.
  • Introduce the importance of warming up prior to starting a physical activity, such as a slow walk, bending and gentle stretching. Being flexible helps avoid injuries.
  • Set fitness goals: plan to start out with 30 minutes of exercise and gradually increase the time and difficulty or reps for each session. Keep a log to track advancement.

More information

For more detailed information about the benefits of health and fitness for the family and activities to try, visit: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/active-families-the-foundation-for-a-lifetime-of-bone-and-joint-health/

By Holly Harmon for Puget Sound Orthopaedics


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