Family Fitness: Benefits Beyond the Body

Family Fit Night @ Candlebrook Elementary School

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.  This is a great time to look and see if you and your family are living up to the recommendations to exercise for one hour each day.  I know, everybody is very busy these days. It takes time to drive our kids to all of those sporting events.  Keep in mind that a family that exercises together is forming habits that last a lifetime.  It should also be noted that many children and adolescents participating in sporting events may be spending more time watching then actually moving on the field.

In the book Spark, Harvard Psychiatrist Dr John Ratney states that kids must move their bodies in order to learn in school.  He also speaks of cases where many youth play sports in school but as adults do not maintain an active life style.  I have seen many a football player who was active during his school years only to put on massive amounts of weight later in life.  Or the mom who played soccer but now has trouble finding an adult league.


Yesterday I caught the headline that 3,600 American kids are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  This  illness is caused by lifestyle factors: packing in carbohydrates, routinely drinking soda or so called “sports drinks”, eating too much, and out at restaurants too often.  Can they get back to serving appropriate portions at restaurants?  The sad news is a new medical study found children diagnosed with this chronic illness do not respond well to routine medications and will most likely need daily insulin shots. Once again we are faced with a headline informing us that our children are getting heavier and sicker.

The research leader of the study, Dr Phil Zeitler, said, “It would be much better if these kids didn’t get diabetes in the first place. It’s a bad disease when they get it.”.  Bad Indeed!

This disease will increase your risk for a disabling heart attack, a paralyzing stroke, infected foot sores and amputated toes.  Am I hysterical enough? P.S. I have seen ALL of these tragedies in the hospital settings.  Up front and heart-breakingly personal as well.

Exercise has a multitude of benefits besides preventing diabetes.  It may prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart attack, and stroke. It may also be useful for treating mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Dr. Ratey found that children who exercise in the am before school have consistently higher test scores.

So yes I know, an extra hour is hard to find in your day, but the hour of exercise can be broken up into 10 minute increments.

Exercise Tips

Here are some tips for including exercise into your daily routine.

Jump rope!  It is a great activity to help build strong bones in our kids. Parents, if you have bad knees, try marching in place for 10 minutes while your kid jumps rope.

Take a quick, brisk walk.  We have many lovely parks inMontgomeryCounty. My daughter and I like to walk and talk through historicValley ForgePark. If we are not pressed for time, we take in a bit of history reading the monuments along the way.  This can be a great way to sneak in some historical facts while you are spending time outdoors with your child.

Do not be afraid of your local gym.  Yes, I know it can be intimidating walking into a place with fancy exercise bikes and mountains of weights.  Most gyms offer a free 1 week trial and a free personal training session that can help you learn how to maximize your goals.

Get in the garden.  Dig some holes and have your kid run back and forth to the hose to fetch some water.

Put some music on and dance for 15 minutes, or go to the library and checkout Just Dance or Zumba for the Wii.  Studies have shown that these electronic play games can motivate kids to stay moving.  Just don’t get upset when your kid scores higher than you.

Ride your bikes together.  You can probably find more time for an hour ride on the weekend or in the summer.  The trail off of Pawlings Rd. into Oaks is flat and an easy one for kids to navigate.

Get some boxing gloves and a standing heavy bag.  Punching and kicking the heavy bag will make you sweat real fast and can be a good way to get out frustration at the end of a long day.  If you are unsure of how to hit or kick the bag drop by a local Martial Arts studio to see if you can sign up for a few hands on lessons.

Many of us made commitments’ to ourselves and families with the New Year, promising that we would be healthier, or lose weight.  When February rolled around we found that we lost some resolve and got caught up in the hectic pace of our daily routines.  Spring is the time for renewal and growth.  So get up, recharge, and get moving again.

Published by Kate Pietrowski, RN, L.Ac.

Kate Pietrowski, RN, L.Ac. is a fitness instructor, weight loss consultant, acupuncturist, nurse, and a health/wellness advocate. As a nurse she worked at the University of Pennsylvania, Friends Hospital, and Bayada. Her nursing experience includes working in mental health/addictions, cardiology, rheumatology, women’s health, and general medicine. As a fitness instructor, Kate has taught a wide spectrum of group fitness classes, trained clients one on one, and worked at a wellness center at the FBI. Kate’s been studying health, nutrition, herbal medicine, and holistic studies for over 20 years.

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