March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
The key to an active family is finding fun things to do in every season. Aim for a goal of 30 minutes for adults and 60 minutes for kids of moderate activity daily — no matter the weather!
The big, bulky clothes of winter often provide more than just warmth; they give us a place to hide the extra winter weight we're carrying! Once the weather turns cold, snow and ice can make jogging and bike riding difficult — and even unsafe! Don't let the cold months of winter be an excuse to cut back on your exercise routine. Consider these calorie-burning indoor activities:
- Walk your local mall.
- Take the stairs whenever possible instead of an elevator or escalator.
- Walk around your building's hallways during your lunch or coffee break.
- Don't wait for spring for a thorough house cleaning. Wash the inside of your windows, vacuum or shampoo the carpet, or clean out your closets.
- Watch and follow an exercise video or DVD rather than a movie.
Cold weather doesn't mean you have to say good-bye to all outdoor activity. There are many ways to enjoy the weather by taking your physical activity outdoors. Why should kids have all the fun in the winter?
- Have a snowball fight.
- Go ice skating.
- Go sledding.
- Make snow angels.
Spring Into Action
To get in shape for spring and summer, you don't need to do everything at once. Put one or two changes into practice, such as controlling your portion sizes or cutting back on added fats and sugars in your food choices. When you feel comfortable with your progress, try something else.
Add physical activity to your day. Spring weather makes it easy to get outdoors and get your recommended amount of daily physical activity. These activities can count toward your day's total exercise:
- Go for a brisk walk during your lunch hour or after dinner.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever possible.
- Skip the drive-thru car wash and wash the car yourself.
- Stretch your green thumb by doing some gardening. Consider growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs.
- Walk in place while watching TV.
- When possible, ride your bike to school or work — or use it to run errands.
- Plan an active family vacation or a weekend outing.
Like good eating habits, regular physical activity needs to be part of everyone's healthful lifestyle. Remember, your goal is to make changes gradually so you can stick with them and won't have to repeat this process next year.
Summer Activity is Crucial for Children
A study in the July 2007 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests physical fitness gains made by obese children who participated in a lifestyle-focused physical education class during the school year were lost after the three-month summer break.
Don't let your child spend his summer sitting on the couch. Teach him or her to enjoy the benefits of being physically active. Help your child stay fit this summer with these ideas:
- Sign your child up for a local sports camp or swimming lessons.
- Make going for a walk, run or bike ride together a scheduled event.
- Go hiking and have the kids tell you 10 points of natural interest to enjoy.
- Take up a new hobby together, such as inline skating, tennis or hiking.
- Run through the sprinkler when it's hot outside.
- When it's raining, stay inside, turn on some music and have a dance party.
- Set up neighborhood contests including jump rope, hula hoop or hopscotch.
- Organize community kickball, soccer or softball games or relay races.
- Host a bicycle or dog wash on your street.
Being active now also helps reduce their risk of chronic health problems later in life. Encourage your kids to engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Teaching the importance of physical activity while your kids are young will help them maintain the habit when they're older.
Enjoy Autumn Activities
Fall weekends are a great time for physical activity, which can counter the effects of the harvest season and the bounty of holiday food. Get outside and enjoy autumn with a brisk run, a nature hike or a game of football. Weekend athletes may not have the same nutritional demands of full-time athletes, but you still need to fuel your body for outdoor activities.
If you're planning some physical fun during fall weekends, power up beforehand. Eat a meal three to four hours before a workout and a small snack about an hour prior. This helps ensure the energy is in your muscles when you need it.
Eat meals with protein and carbohydrates: a lean deli meat sandwich, cereal with fruit and low-fat milk or pasta with meat sauce. For your pre-activity snack, eat something low-fat and low-fiber, such as a cup of low-fat yogurt or a piece of fruit.
Refuel afterward with similar food combinations, in portions that are right for your body size. And, of course, remember to drink plenty of fluids.
Don't Let Exercise Take a Holiday
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season may make it hard to stick to your workout routine, but always make exercise a priority. Good options include walking, biking, running, ice skating or stair climbing. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. If you don't currently have a workout routine, there is no time like the present to get started.
Whatever activity you choose, you'll burn extra calories instead of storing them.