Get Out and Stay Out

     This past week I have had 3 extra girls in the house ages 13, 12, and 8.  They are all relatives and live in the city, not anything like living at the end of the Gunflint Trail.  They have been brought up in different households and are different from my children.  I run my household differently than most people; we all have different priorities and lifestyles. 

     One thing I can’t stand in my house is when the television is on, it seriously drives me crazy.  The American Pediatrics recommends kids under the age of 2 watch no television and older children should have no more than 1-2 hours of quality programming a day.  I’m not sure what is considered quality programming, but I haven’t found much of it on Nickelodeon, Toon, or even Disney unless it is in the early morning.  I used to only let my kids watch TV if it was raining outside but I’ll admit I have gotten more lenient lately.  There are times when my kids get more than 2 hours a day, like if they are sick, if it’s raining, if I’m really busy, or if I’m not at home.  I will also confess when my daughter goes to someone else’s house then she is glued to the TV.  Have I created a monster by being such a scrooge?  I don’t think so, because if they aren’t sitting in front of the television then they are out and about and moving around.

     Getting out into the great outdoors and staying out there is what it’s all about.  I have found it challenging to keep all of the kids active this week.  According to a survey done in 1999 kids were spending 6 1/2 hours a day in front of a screen; either TV or computer.  This is 80% of their free time!  I kept finding myself walking into rooms where the girls were sprawled out watching TV, playing a Game Boy or reading.  While I have to spend many hours in front of my computer screen I would die to be outside all day long.  When I would come upstairs and see them all inside on a beautiful afternoon it would almost kill me.  Drill Sargent Sue would say, "Get up, get outside, and get moving, no more TV!"   

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    Then together we would head outside for exercise.  One day we got a tow boat ride to Red Rock and paddled and portaged home through Alpine and Seagull.  Other days we hiked; Seagull River Nature Trail, the Northern Light Lake Trail, and our trail back to Gulf Lake.  We had to go into Grand Marais for soccer practice and errands one day so I dropped the kids off and had them walk wherever they wanted to go while I was at my meeting.  I suggested they go swimming, told them to go canoeing, made them take the mail, walk the dog, bring something somewhere for some reason; just so they weren’t sitting around. 

     The statistics of childhood obesity are overwhelming.  As adults we are responsible for the health and safety of our children.  Inactive lifestyles of children are causing early occurrences of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes, asthma, and depression because of  the social stigma of being overweight.  We need to take action in order to keep both ourselves and our children healthy.

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     As an adult you can make the difference in the lifestyle your child has.  On a website I found according to the American Dietetics Association, parents play several roles in helping their children establish healthy behaviors; Provider, Role Model, Enforcer, or Advocate.

     Parents in the Provider role should provide opportunities for kids to play outdoors, toys that involve active play, and transportation to and from activities that promote exercise.  As an Enforcer parents should limit not only screen time but also sit time.  They should also create ways to keep their kids moving and set aside time for them to be active each day.  The Role Model parent should be outside playing with their kids, taking them hiking, introducing them to new activities, and exercising.  As an Advocate parents should make sure their schools and communities have good facilities to exercise in, ample time to play, good playground equipment, and city parks and trails to recreate in.  

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     I am very lucky to live at the end of the Gunflint Trail.  I have a huge swimming pool in my back yard, hiking and biking trails everywhere I look, tons of play equipment including kayaks and canoes, and even in the winter we can snowshoe and cross-country ski right outside of our door.  I have an easy job of getting my kids outside and active.   

    I know lives are hectic and days are crammed with activities we all need to do.  But this weekend why not do yourself and your kids a favor and get active; Get out and stay out!