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It's summer! Time to focus on family fitness.

Published in For the Health of It Author: Ryan Davis,DO

The weather is finally cooperating and — at long last — it's summertime in Minnesota! For working families, it's not always easy to carve out time for health and fitness. If you're lucky, you might be able to eek out some time at the gym or a quick run after work, but what about your kids? Are they getting enough activity during the day? And, what about nutrition? Are you and your kids making healthy choices when it comes to meals and snacking?

Now that school is out, don't let your kids fall into a sedentary and unhealthy routine. More than ever, it's time to limit screen time, get outside, and make family fitness a top priority.

Here are some ideas to kick-off your family's summer fitness plan:

  • Hit the parks and trails. We are so fortunate to be living in an area that offers such beautiful state, regional, and county parks, as well as an extensive bike trail system. Take a hike together, go for a bike ride, or check out the many bicycle sharing systems like BikeWillmar or Nice Ride.
  • Make a plan. Summer sports and camps can fill up quickly. Be proactive and check out the City of Willmar's Parks and Rec catalog for activities your kids will enjoy. Also, be sure and check out the many free events and activities offered by our Minnesota State Parks and the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center.
  • Sign up for swimming lessons. It doesn't matter if you're 5 or 55, learning to swim is a necessary skill if you live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Call the Willmar Community Education office or the Willmar YMCA to inquire about swim lesson registration.
  • Register for a Walk/Run. Whether it's a 5K or a one-mile fun run, almost all kids love to participate in a race where you get a free T-shirt! Miles 4 Mentors is a running series for kids pre-K through 5th grade and their families. You can also visit a site like to search and register for other family-friendly races in our area.
  • Cook together. The best way to teach your kids healthy eating habits is to start early and let them get involved with meal preparation. There's a huge selection of children's cookbooks to choose from these days, as well as cooking utensils that are safe and easy to use. Remember, if they help make it, they'll usually eat it!
  • Evaluate your snack cupboard. Grab-and-go snacks are an essential part of summertime fun. But, take a good look at your fridge and pantry to help your kids make good choices when it comes to snacking. Replace the fruit snacks, cookies, popsicles, and potato chips with apples, clementines, string cheese, and trail mix. No-bake energy balls and smoothie popsicles are also a big hit with kids.
  • Plant a garden. Take the time to teach your child the importance of healthy eating by getting them involved at the ground level. Now is the time to visit your local garden center or nursery and plant your veggies for a late summer harvest. Green beans, carrots, cherry tomatoes and peas are especially fun and easy to grow for kids. Whether it's a container garden or a backyard plot, your kids will love watching their garden grow all summer long!
  • Don't forget your community resources! Local programs such as NL-S Community Ed and Rec, Mill Pond Mile, and many others offer a wide variety of activities for youth and families. Have fun and get active in our beautiful communities this summer.