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Staying fit during the summer months

Have fun, eat well, and stay healthy this summer

Posted: July 8, 2008 1:19 a.m.
Updated: September 8, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Families have fun in the sun at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center in June. Playing in the pool is a cool way to get kids off the couch, and away from the television and video games this summer.

 
The end of the school year doesn't mean kids can park in front of the television, play video games and indulge in daily meals of junk food.

Instead, it can be a chance for kids and their parents to team up to start eating healthy and exercising.

Creating a healthy lifestyle

With breaks from school and upcoming family vacations, the summer season serves as an ideal time for kids and families to get in the habit of healthy eating so that diabetes and obesity will never become a reality.

Dianna Boone, recreation administrator for the city of Santa Clarita, said families can play games at Central Park, walk the 14 miles of paseos located all over the city and even make a splash at the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center.

Swim lessons are also an option.

"It's not only a good way to cool off. It's a good skill to have," she said.

Rubisela Gamboa, program director at the Boys and Girls Club in Newhall, said the summer season brings many options for water sports, ranging from swim time in the pool to water relay races and slip ‘n' slides.
Video games don't have to be completely turned off, either.

"Dance, Dance Revolution; that is huge," Gamboa said. "I think it's great."

The video game, also known as DDR, lets kids perform choreographed dances that correspond to the game's characters.

"Kids love it and they dance and they sweat," she said.

Gamboa said the Boys and Girls Club allows youngsters to play Dance, Dance Revolution at its Newhall play area.

"You'd be surprised at how fast they can move," she said.

Another option for kids is Nintendo's Wii, Boone said.

"You can get really sore playing with that machine," she said. "I am not kidding!"

Wii offers all types of active games, ranging from tennis to even yoga, which can come in handy when the blistering summer temperatures prevents kids from playing outside.

Eating right, too

But engaging in a healthy lifestyle also means making smart choices when eating.

"Kids are now learning fast and easy meals that are healthy," Gamboa said.

Jane Albin, executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley YMCA, echoed Gamboa's thoughts by noting that it's about "making snack time an activity time."

For instance, Albin said kids enjoy the summertime snack called "ants on a log."

Parents can spread peanut butter on a celery stick, while adding raisins that can look like a trail of ants walking on a tree.

But one healthy snack is not enough.

"It needs to be an everyday thing," Albin said.

Albin explained that YMCA's leadership has been working with parents to show that healthy eating can be exciting for their kids.

Making that point is especially important so that parents will serve low fat meals at home.

"If they go home and are given unhealthy choices, it takes away from what they learned from us," she said.

Including plenty fruits and vegetables alongside meals is also crucial, as well as monitoring portion control, Albin said.

Parents can even consult cookbooks that include lists of healthy recipes and learn how to read nutritional labels on the packaged foods they buy.

Why change now?

Although exercising regularly and eating right may seem like daunting tasks, establishing a healthy lifestyle for kids is important as it's ever been.

"This is the first generation of American children that will have a shorter lifespan than adults," Albin said.
That's why Albin believes it is important for parents to get their kids off the couch, away from the television and video games.

Gamboa said that because youngsters are living in the "junk food and fast food era," they are exposed to poor choices on a daily basis, which can cause problems later on.

"If you don't do that now, you end up having issues as an adult," Gamboa said. "Which is what a lot of adults are realizing now."

Gamboa believes youngsters who make long-term commitments will see results.

She offered two kids who regularly attend the Boys and Girls Club as examples.

"They've changed their whole eating habits" and lost weight, she said.

Boone brings up the point that exercising gives families a chance to improve not only their physical health, but also their emotional health.

Gamboa said making healthy living choices is something that should start now and continue on.

"It's important not only in the summer, but throughout the whole year," she said.

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