Making every day Healthy Kids Day

Published 9:15 am Friday, April 29, 2016

Children and adolescents can benefit from a healthy lifestyle just like adults. This is why our local YMCA is hosting a national initiative called Healthy Kids Day.

From 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, this free community event will include healthy snacks, demonstration classes, a family obstacle course, a bounce house and more. This event should inspire us parents and caregivers to help our children be healthier (and happier) every day of the year.

Did you know that kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day? According to the United States Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), children and adolescents who are active for one hour a day enjoy stronger hearts, muscles, and bones as well as a lower body weight.

They can be emotionally happier and less stressed, and they have a much greater chance of a healthy adult life. By helping our children and adolescents be more active, we give them a great gift: the gift of better heath.

The 60 minutes of activity can be made up of shorter segments throughout the day. Variety and fun are the keys to keeping kids moving! The exercises should be primarily cardiovascular (raising the heart rate), like running, skipping, jumping rope or bicycling.

Three days a week, children and adolescents should include some muscle strengthening exercises (climbing trees or playground equipment, tug-of-war or push-ups), some bone-strengthening exercises (jumping games like basketball and hopscotch), and some activities that raise the heart rate to a vigorous level (running instead of walking).

Since many schools nationwide have shortened recess times, our children may get as little as five minutes of true cardiovascular activity during the school day. We need to find new ways to encourage kids to move more and sit less. Here are some ideas:

• Spend more time outdoors. Walk or bicycle to your destination instead of driving. Take an evening walk as a family. Hike at a local park or visit a playground. Let your child help with lawn care and gardening. For more outdoor activity ideas, check the National Wildlife Federation’s Activity Finder website (

• Introduce kids to a variety of activities so they can discover what they enjoy. Our YMCA offers many different classes and teams that can make exercise fun.

• Realize that adolescents usually need more structure to stay active. Try organized sports teams, group fitness classes and family outings.

• If your child has been less active, start by adding a few minutes a day doing something that he or she enjoys. Start adding different types of activities, and gradually work up to one hour a day.

As a mother of three children between the ages of 11 and 16, I try to make exercise a natural part of our lives. We walk to the neighborhood pizza place, wash our own cars in warm weather and pitch in with lawn care and housework. I drive them to sports teams and activities, and I exercise regularly on my own. My hope is that by modelling these behaviors, I will teach my kids how to stay healthy for a lifetime.

To learn more, view the ODPHP’s booklet “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” at ( And be sure to visit us at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, where we can help you make every day Healthy Kids Day!


Chrissie Kaufmann is a fitness instructor by day and a mother of three by night.