I recall a conversation I had with my son many years ago. He had just completed first grade. He and I were talking about scheduling some summer activities for him, and I was perusing the city’s summer recreation guide.
“What do you want to do this summer?” I asked him.
“I want to jump over turtles this summer,” he announced.
Because we do not have lots of turtles in the neighborhood, I didn’t think he’d be having much fun or getting a lot of exercise. I repeated my question.
He gave me the “my mom’s an alien” look and repeated his answer.
Trying to get me to understand, he said, “Mom, you run around a track and jump over turtles this high.” He held his hand about waist high. I finally got it.
He wasn’t talking about the giant turtles featured in public TV documentaries. He was talking about “hurdles.”
Yes, running and jumping over hurdles would be a good summer activity, as long as it’s not done in the living room.
Physical activity is very important for people of all ages. It goes hand in hand with healthy eating in helping lower our risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Physical activity doesn’t have to be as strenuous as “turtle” jumping to be effective. Back in 1995, the U.S. surgeon general recommended that all adults aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity such as walking on five or more days of the week. That message remains 20 years later.
You can accumulate the minutes in shorter increments. Ten minutes of walking three times a day will fill the bill. Parking your car farther from your destination and taking the stairs instead of the elevator counts, too.
Many experts recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis. Increasing physical activity among children could help reverse the worrisome trend of childhood obesity. Saying no to “super-size” portions and eating more fruits and vegetables also can help.
With hectic lives and many distractions, adults and children may find that meeting the recommendations is difficult. TV, videos and computer games can distract children from getting physical activity. Many TV food commercials are for sweetened beverages and high-fat snacks.
We all need to feed our bodies with a variety of healthy foods. Bones, in particular, need ample calcium, along with vitamin D and several other nutrients. Dairy products are good sources of calcium. A cup of milk, for example, contains about 300 milligrams of calcium. Calcium-fortified juice and cereal and broccoli are other sources of calcium.
In addition to food, weight-bearing physical activity can strengthen our bones. Setting limits on sedentary activities such as watching TV is a worthy goal. Children, especially teenagers, are building bone mass to carry them throughout life.
Walking, running and jumping rope are examples of activities that put pressure on bones, strengthening them in the process. Swimming and bike riding, although good for the heart, technically are not weight-bearing exercises because weight is being supported.
Here’s a refreshing and easy-to-make treat to enjoy after getting some physical activity.
2 c. cold low-fat or skim milk 1 (four-serving size) package instant pudding mix 6 paper cups (5-ounce size) 6 plastic spoons or Popsicle sticks
Beat pudding mix and milk together at least two minutes. Spoon into cups. Insert Popsicle stick or spoon in center of each cup. Freeze at least five hours. To remove pop from cup, place bottom of cup in warm water for 10 to 15 seconds.
Makes six pops. When made with nonfat milk, each pop contains 80 calories, 0 grams (g) fat, 18 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein and 10 percent of the daily value for calcium.