Fun Family Activities That Get You Fit

Photo by: Sander van der Wel CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Summer is here and it’s time for holiday family gatherings and fun! Family vacations, weekend getaways or a day trip to the beach with the kids are great opportunities to enjoy family and get some exercise at the same time. Park the car and bike to the park. After the barbecue enjoy some fun games in the back yard with the whole family to burn off those extra calories. This Memorial Day weekend, get the whole family involved in fun fitness.

Have a hula-hoop contest! The kids will love the competition and you will love what hula-hooping does for your abdominal muscles and thighs. Hula-hooping engages your entire mid-section and  your legs. On the count of three everyone start hooping! The person who can hoop the longest wins. You can burn more than 100 calories in just 10 minutes of hula-hooping. Adults will find hula-hooping easier if they use a large hoop. A weighted hoop is even easier to use.

Jumping rope is another way the whole family can have fun and get fit. You and your kids can have a contest to see who can jump rope the longest or the fastest. Use two long ropes with one family member at each end throwing the rope and play double-dutch. Select two or three different types of jumping rope, such as jumping on one foot or double jumps. You kids will have fun and you will burn as many calories as running one mile.

Running is one of the best ways to get fit and burn calories. Why not make it a game? The whole family can play a game of tag on the beach, at the park or in the back yard. Freeze tag is a favorite among children. One person is “it” and chases the others trying to tag them. If you get tagged, you have to stop running, or “freeze,” until another player tags  you again. The child who is “it” wins the game when everyone is frozen. Make it a team sport by several “its” chasing and tagging others.

Staying home this holiday weekend? Play some one-on-one basketball or a game of HORSE in the driveway. Each player gets a shot from the free-throw line. Every time a player makes a basket, he or she gets one letter of the word HORSE. Keep score with sidewalk chalk. If you want a more vigorous workout, you can burn as many as 200 calories in a  half hour playing basketball. Basketball is a high-impact exercise that helps build bones and muscle too. Make sure you warm-up before and cool-down after the game to reduce your risk of a sprained ankle or pulled muscle. Cool off with fruit juice and water to re-energize your body after a vigorous game.

Taking long walks, swimming, biking and playing volleyball at the beach are great ways to spend a summer weekend or holiday while keeping fit. You will not only build muscle and strong bones, you’ll strengthen your relationship with your family and kids.


Summer Vacation Workouts

Photo Credit: Mavila2  CC-BY-SA-3.0

Summer is almost here! The family vacation is an American tradition, but you don’t have to take a vacation from fitness to have fun and relax. Take advantage of your vacation to add some variety to your workouts. Whether you are going to a luxury hotel, in a cabin by the lake, hang out at the beach or go camping in the mountains, you can stay fit and energetic during your vacation while having fun. 

Many people enjoy the quiet, serene surroundings of a cabin by a lake. America offers plenty of idyllic vacation spots on lakes. You know that swimming is a great way to get a good whole body cardiovascular workout, but you’re on vacation to relax, right? Take a relaxing dip in the lake to cool off from the summer heat and get a good workout, too. Walk out in the lake until the water is under your chin and your toes touching the bottom of the lake. Tread water for 5 to 8 minutes and then walk back to waist-deep water to rest for 2 minutes. Repeat this exercise 2 times ever day of your vacation. Canoeing and rowing are excellent  ways to work out your upper body, arms, chest and back. 
For those staying in a hotel while visiting an historic town or taking the kids to a popular amusement park, you don’t have to neglect fitness. Hotels usually have pools and fitness rooms complete with exercise machines and weights. After breakfast, head down to the hotel exercise facility and workout on a treadmill, stationary bicycle or elliptical for 20 minutes and then cool off with a few laps of the pool for 10 minutes. You will feel energized and ready to take on your daily vacation agenda. 

Camping and hiking are popular family vacation activities. Mountain hiking and camping offer numerous opportunities to exercise and stay in shape on vacation. Getting to your campsite will be a great workout, but don’t just sit in the shade once you set up camp. Exercise by exploring for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. Don’t walk alone, carry your cell phone in case of emergency and a GPS device to help you find your way back to your campsite. 

If you are vacationing at the beach, you will get a good workout just walking in the sand. The sand provides resistance that you can’t get walking on solid ground or on an exercise machine. You will definitely feel the positive effects in your shins, ankles, feet and calves. Wear a wide-brim hat, sunblock and sandals because the sand can become very hot during the day. Walk for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon to stay fit,  while enjoying the ocean breeze and the scenery. Enjoy a game of beach volleyball and toss a Frisbee with your kids to have fun while exercising.

Diet Survival Tips for 4th of July Cookouts

Outdoor barbecues are a tradition on Independence Day. Grills will fire up in backyards around the country. Everything from hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, ribs, smoked sausages, chicken, vegetables and even shrimp and fish are cooked on outdoor grills. Side dishes may include potato salad, cole slaw, pickles and  macaroni salad. Of course, what 4th of July celebration would be complete without apple pie and ice cream? It can be difficult to stay on a diet and avoid fatty foods at a backyard cookout when so many people around you are enjoying the savory open-grilled flavor, and the smell gets your mouth to watering. You can enjoy a delicious backyard barbecue without  regretting it the next day. You can enjoy all the flavor of a 4th of July grilled fare without all the calories and fat.
Photo Credit: Silar CC-BY-SA-3.0
Host your own backyard barbecue celebration where you select the cuts and types of meat and side dishes. Skip the processed meats like hot dogs and ground beef. These meats products are often loaded with preservatives, fats and sodium. Turkey hot dogs and ground lean steak are much better choices. Grill kabobs including white meat chicken or shrimp, mixed vegetables, like peppers, pearl onions and cherry tomatoes. Sea bass, cod and tilapia work well on a grill if you use a little foil and a light vegetable or olive oil. Spritz talapia with fresh lime for a delicious meal. Try some cajun blackening spices and blacken your fish on the grill. 
There are loads of calories, fats and sodium in side dishes and condiments. Condiments including barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup and ranch salad dressing contain lots of calories and sodium. Offer low-sodium or salt-free alternatives. Use more spices when cooking food on the grill so that condiments are not really necessary. Potato and pasta salads that include mayonnaise may contain as many as 400 calories per serving. Offer a tossed pasta salad using whole grain pasta and a light vinaigrette dressing. Include some diced tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers mixed in with the pasta for extra flavor and a boost of healthy vitamins and minerals. 

Beer and soda often flow freely at backyard barbecues. Offer your guests a variety of flavored sparkling water, lite beer and low-sugar sodas in addition to regular soda and beer. Drink sensibly and in moderation. Drink an 8 ounce glass of water between each alcoholic drink to help you avoid over-indulging and dehydration. 

Sweet Valentine’s Day Tips

Photo Credit: John Hritz CC-BY-2.0 2005

Are you planning a romantic Valentine’s Day complete with flowers, chocolates, champagne and a romantic dinner? You probably don’t want to think about your diet and weight loss on Valentine’s Day. It’s easy to forget about your diet and fitness when enjoying romance, dining and wine. Avoid regrets and weight gain by planning ahead for your romantic evening. 
Begin the day with a fiber-rich breakfast of whole grains and low-fat dairy. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day to avoid over-indulging at dinner. Snack on fresh fruit, yogurt and whole grain crackers. Drink plenty of water during the day and have an extra glass of water before dinner. Snacking on healthy foods throughout the day will keep you from becoming hungry and boost your metabolism. You can control the menu and calories if you have a romantic dinner at home. If you are dining out for Valentine’s Day,  become familiar with the restaurant menu. Skip the salad dressing or choose a low-calorie dressing. Select lean cuts of meat and steamed or grilled vegetables. Those yeast rolls may be delicious, but they are loaded with calories and fat. Choose whole grain bread or skip the rolls. Avoid the butter and salt on the baked potato. Drink alcohol in moderation. Choose a dessert that is low in sugar and calories, such as a fruit sorbet or fresh fruit. Enjoy a romantic stroll together after dinner to burn a few calories and enjoy each other’s company. Dancing after dinner is a great way to work off those dessert calories. 

Stay Your Diet

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It’s easy to fall off the diet wagon when friends and family visit during the holidays. It is difficult to decline a piece of chocolate cake smothered in butter frosting. It’s also easy to over-indulge at the holiday dinner table. It is easier to resist the urge to have a second helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, and the sugary sweet pecan pie won’t look so enticing if you are not hungry when you sit down to partake of the holiday feast. A few easy to implement tips can help you resist the urge to over-eat and eat foods that can destroy your diet.
Begin your day with a high-fiber, nutrient rich breakfast. Skipping breakfast can result in hunger and it can slow your metabolism. People who eat breakfast have more energy and are less hungry during the mornings. A high-fiber breakfast is not only good for you, it keeps you feeling full longer. Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fresh fruit, like bananas or blueberries, is a great way to get vital nutrients and fiber. Drink a glass of calcium and Vitamin C- rich orange juice with your breakfast. Whole wheat waffles or pancakes made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with light corn syrup or fresh fruit can provide most of your daily fiber requirements. 
Water is essential to good health, yet often we do not drink enough water. Start the day by drinking a large glass of water. Drink another glass of water mid-morning and another glass before lunch. Drink more water in the afternoon. Just before you sit down with your family and friends at the holiday banquet table drink another glass of water. A large glass of water just before your holiday meal will help you feel more full so you will be less likely to over-eat. Eat a salad before the main course. Select fresh vegetables, such as spinach, tomatoes, radishes and shredded cabbage. Select shredded carrots instead of cheese and don’t load your salad with  a high calorie salad dressing. A light vinegar and olive oil salad dressing will bring out the flavor of the vegetables and add far fewer calories. 
Put no more than one cup of a variety of side dishes on your plate. Resist the urge to have a second helping. Chew your food slowly and savor the flavors. Chewing slowly also helps stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes in your mouth. The stomach is slow to send signals to the brain, so you may not know you are full right away. Eating slowly gives your stomach time to signal the brain that you are full and it’s time to stop eating. When you are full, remove your plate from the table to avoid putting a second helping of stuffing on your plate.

Holiday Exercise Options

The holidays are a busy time of year for most people. Shopping, parties, family gatherings and all the calorie-rich food can undermine your fitness program. You may not be able to make it to the gym or you may have to skip aerobics to host a holiday party. You can get 30 minutes of exercise every day during the holidays by incorporating exercise into your daily activities.

Get up one half hour earlier in the morning and exercise. Take advantage of the quiet time before the hustle and bustle begins to stretch, lunge and squat. Walk in place for 5 or more minutes and do 50 to 100 jumping jacks to increase your heart rate. Use resistance bands to strengthen your muscles. Do 25 to 50 push-ups and finish off with some more stretches.

Photo by Scott Catron 2009 CC-SA 2.0

Holiday errands like shopping can be a great time to exercise. Walking is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay fit, strengthen muscles and lose weight. Walk to the shopping center if the weather permits. If you drive to the mall, park your car at 100 yards or more away from the entrance and walk. Avoid using the escalator or elevator in the mall. Take the stairs instead. Do some leg lifts and isometric exercises such as abdominal and glute squeezes while standing in line to pay for your purchases.
Traveling during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising regularly. Book a hotel that has a swimming pool or a fitness center. Swim in the morning and take advantage of the exercise equipment in the hotel gym in the evening. Dress warmly and go for a walk to enjoy the holiday decorations and lights. Do some Pilates or yoga routines in the hotel room if there are no facilities in your hotel or if the weather is too cold. 
For more information and tips, see:
WebMD, Health and Fitness, Your Holiday Fitness Program, by Carol Sorgen. 2006
Heart Secrets, Columbia St. Mary’s, You Can Find Time to Exercise During the Holidays!, Kim Beyer. 2009.