It can be hard for a child or adolescent to choose outdoor play over video games and social media, but the benefits children receive from physical activity can be profound. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites improved academic performance, emotional health and immune system function as benefits of outdoor activities, in addition to more commonly recognized benefits such as stronger bones and muscles and maintaining a healthy weight.
There are a lot of ways to have an active and safe summer as a family.
“It starts with the parents being models and encouraging kids to turn off the TV, turn off the computer, put the cell phone down and just go outside,” said Danielle Comeaux, PA-C with Texas Children’s Orthopedics.
One hour of activity every day is recommended by health experts for both children and adults. For those who find it difficult to find an hour in the day for exercise, Comeaux recommends breaking that time into smaller increments and including other people in your activities to make it more fun and provide accountability.
Making use of sports equipment that may be collecting dust in the garage, or coordinating outdoor walks and play time with friends, can make physical activity a convenient and eagerly anticipated part of family life. Comeaux has found this to be true in her own life as she encourages her son to stay in shape for baseball and motivates her family to walk their dog together.
“Especially during the summer, incorporate time for not only enrichment from an educational standpoint but also enrichment from the standpoint of staying active,” said Comeaux.
Events around Houston can help to generate excitement about exercise. The annual YMCA kids triathlon, sponsored by Texas Children’s Hospital, brings together a community of families all oriented around physical fitness. For children with disabilities, Camp For All is another way to encourage outdoor play. Other community programs such as sports leagues, or activities on Discovery Green downtown can also provide a venue for kids to enjoy being active.
While Comeaux encourages her patients and their families to stay active in the summer, she’s also mindful of safety. Common summer activities can lead to injuries without proper protection, and Comeaux sees a lot of them at the Texas Children’s Orthopedics Saturday walk-in clinic, and in the fracture follow-up clinic, where her group sees children on the same day that they are diagnosed with a broken bone at a referring clinic.
Bikes, monkey bars and trampolines are all common sources of injury that can be prevented. She recommends that parents and caregivers enforce common sense safety measures at an early age. That includes delaying trampoline use until age 6 and limiting it to one child at a time. She also encourages consistent use of helmets, wrist guards and knee guards for bike and skateboard safety, as well as swim lessons to keep kids safe around pools and lakes.
She also notes that consistent physical activity is another way to keep children injury-free over the summer.
“Towards the end of summer, when the kids are getting back into sports and activities, we see a lot of stress injuries from doing nothing all summer and then going back to beingning 100% active,” Comeaux said.
By keeping safety precautions in mind, children and adolescents can have an active summer to keep their bodies and minds healthy. Even with all the necessary precautions, however, accidents and injuries do sometimes occur, and when they do, Comeaux and her team are ready to lend a hand.
Learn more about Texas Children’s Orthopedics Clinics at texaschildrens.org/departments/orthopedics.