Simple Ways to Spring-Clean Your Family-Fitness Routine
Well, it’s official. Spring is finally here. Our students, along with Mother Earth, are practically
bursting with pent-up energy, making this the perfect time for the entire family to ease into new fitness routines
and outdoor adventures. From understanding the biology of spring fever to finding local resources, we’ve put
together some of the information you need to give your family a jump-start on fitness this spring.
Making the Most of Spring Fever
Did you know that as the hours of daylight lengthen in spring, our retinas react and trigger hormonal changes
in the brain that affect our sleep and mood? As our bodies produce less melatonin, we typically sleep less, crave
fewer carbohydrates, and have more energy. The sunlight also triggers the release of serotonin, another mood and
energy booster, and improves our absorption of vitamin D, essential for healthy bones.
In short, feeling happier and more energetic, we’re primed by nature to try and succeed at new physical
activities and dietary changes in the spring.
A Focus on Family
With research showing that family attitudes toward fitness,
nutrition, and the outdoors have a profound impact on our children’s future health, parents and Learning Coaches need to lead and join in when it comes to fitness. Fortunately, the prescription is simple and the resources readily
Let’s All Go Outside and Play!
We’re all more likely to stick with activities that
are enjoyable and allow us to spend time with the people we care about. So here are a few tips and resources for
outdoor activities that lay the foundation for a lifetime of fitness and family fun:
- Take a family hike or bike ride. Hiking and bicycling are activities that can both
accommodate groups of varying ages and abilities. In the process, you’ll build endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and
stronger legs. On the American Trails website, you can search state by state for hiking trails near you and also find
information on length, difficulty, and amenities. For family cycling suggestions, check out our prior post on Family Cycling Made Simple and then find a safe and scenic bike trail near you on the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy’s website.
- Join a Family Fun Run for charity. Spring is “high season” for local charity events that
encourage you to walk, run, or cycle; meet new people; and support good causes. It’s a great way to do good and
improve cardiovascular fitness. To find an event in your area, check out the Active.com website. And while you’re
there, make sure to check out their kids’ page, where you can sort local events by age group and type of activity to
find those suited to students of different ages and interests. Don’t forget about your favorite causes’ websites, as
well: local chapters of the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the Juvenile Diabetes
Association, and more run well-organized events across the country.
- Fly a kite. While it may not sound like real exercise, flying a kite at your local park or
playground can keep your family in constant motion for hours. From assembling the kite to running repeatedly back and
forth, kite flying helps your family connect, burn calories, and build leg muscles. Check out these kite-building instructions from PBS, where you can also learn a little about Benjamin Franklin.
- Participate in a local park cleanup. “Many hands make light work,” as the saying goes. When
your family volunteers for a local park cleanup, you’ll get plenty of sun and exercise while making a difference in
your community. Again, spring is peak season for local cleanups. Contact your state Department of Natural Resources or
local environmental groups to find cleanups in your area.
- Go kayaking or canoeing. Kayaking and canoeing are great ways to explore the outdoors and
build upper-body strength. Many local departments of parks and recreation offer free courses as well as reasonable
equipment rentals. If you live near an area with major outdoors outfitters, you can also find free or low-cost
introductory classes where the sponsor provides all the equipment.
With a focus on family, the outdoors, and play, these and other activities can inspire your students with the
idea that fitness and fun go hand in hand. Ready to go outside and play? Share your plans in the comments below.