Fitness and Fun for the Family: Visit Your Local Pool!

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By Lecia West; Certified Fitness Instructor, South Suburban Parks and Recreation- Centennial
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Summer brings a slower pace to our lives and for many, a change in routine.  The beginning of summer is usually marked with the opening of the local swimming pool.  Playing or exercising in water is not only fun, but a great way to fit exercise into your day.  Planning a day at the pool?  Here are some practical tips to help you make the most of your experience.

Packing up the kids, toys, and towels for a day at the pool can be a daunting task. Questions abound in your head:  Do you have everything you need? What should I pack to eat?  Do I have enough sunscreen? Will everyone be happy and entertained once they get there? What activities are available at the pool? Is it a safe environment for the kids?

Snacks

It is easy for kids and adults alike to work up an appetite at the pool. Be sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks and extra water for your family.  Leave the chips and cookies at the grocery store; more than 25% of a child’s daily caloric intake is in the form of empty snack calories.  Many of these snacks are high in sugar and loaded with fat. Instead, bring a selection of fruits and vegetables to the picnic table that everyone can enjoy.  Raw fresh carrots, celery, sweet peppers, and broccoli pack a lot of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Sliced apples, oranges, pears, bananas, berries, and grapes are whole fruits in their natural form; try to avoid fruit juices and fruit snacks that are heavily processed. 

It might surprise you that only one in four children consume their recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables.  Together, fruit and vegetables should make up 50% of your child’s dietary plate.  They are easy to pack and they won’t melt in the sun. Let’s help our kids make healthier food choices this summer!

Protect Yourself

Don’t forget the sunscreen! People of all skin types and skin colors can get skin cancer.  More than 3.5 million types of skin cancer in more than 2 million people are diagnosed each year. Everyone should apply sunscreen liberally to dry skin at least 15 minutes before entering the pool. Apply to all areas of your body that are not covered by clothing. Reapply every two hours, or after water activity or heavy sweating.  If you or your children are particularly sensitive to sun exposure, you might want to consider a swim shirt and hat. Protect yourself and your family from sunburns!

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use a sunscreen that offers water resistance, Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or greater, and broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.  Your lips need protection, too.  Apply a lip balm or lipstick with SPF 30 or greater.  For more information on selecting an appropriate sunscreen, visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s website at www.aad.org.

Learn To Swim

Do you know how to swim? Can your children stay afloat? We all know what a lifesaving skill this can be, yet many people do not know how to swim or are afraid to learn. Your local recreation center offers swimming lessons for children and adults of all ages and abilities at an affordable price.  Classes are held at indoor and outdoor pools in your area. Take advantage of these classes and learn how to swim this summer! Be safe and smart around the pool. Know where your kids are at all times. Everyone will enjoy the pool more if they are comfortable and confident in and near the water. For more information on classes offered by the South Suburban Park and Recreation District, go to www.ssrpd.org.

Aqua Fitness Classes

Water fitness classes are an excellent way to get in a workout, poolside.  A number of studies have shown that water based exercise offers valuable benefits, particularly for people with special physical needs.  Individuals with hip, knee or lower back issues, poor balance, arthritis or weak bones especially benefit from water-based exercise.  Still, the unique properties of water will encourage stronger, more stable joints, improvements in agility, balance, cardiovascular health, and flexibility for all who participate regularly in water fitness classes. Check your local pool or recreation center for an Aqua Fitness class schedule this summer.

Stay Hydrated

Lastly, bring plenty of drinking water.  Swimming, like all aerobic activities, will cause your body to lose fluids, so stay well hydrated.  How do you know if you are getting enough water?  Drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water each day, which would be more than five 12-oz glasses.  Avoid caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and carbonated beverages as they tend to dehydrate the body. A well hydrated body is a healthier body.

If you have questions about how to stay active and safe this summer, please e-mail me at ellenm@sspr.org. Have fun this summer and be safe!