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Good News: regular exercise may boost your immune system

Some of the things that can affect our immune system include stress, sleep, nutrients from food and obesity.

Regular exercise helps boost our immune system by reducing stress and contributing to a more restful sleep. Exercise also encourages us to eat more nutrient dense foods that help us perform better during our workouts and aids in reaching or maintaining a healthy weight. 

A healthy body composition (amount of body fat and muscle mass) is key in keeping our bodies healthy and regular exercise plays an important role in weight management. Exercising as a family teaches children from a young age the importance of taking care of themselves, what to put in to their body, and what their body can do! When we exercise we also feel good about ourselves and the more we move, the more we understand the need for food as fuel for our muscles.

As a mom of three, I know it is not always easy to get kids up and moving. Here are five fun things you can do together as a family to keep your body moving and reduce your risk of catching a cold, flu or infection. 

  1. Build an obstacle course in the yard and run it together as a family. Take turns or even make it competitive by timing each person to see who can get through it the quickest. Tip: Let the kids participate in setting it up. I’ll bet they will have some great ideas!
  2. Play games together. Kids tend to get bored with repetitive exercises. Games will keep them engaged, so they will not feel like they are “working.” A family game of kickball is a fun way to get your heart pumping and does not require a lot of skill, making it a fantastic choice for all ages. Switch things up and play reverse kickball, where you run the bases backwards. Have a Nerf gun war. They are so much more fun when mom or dad get involved! All you need are a few Nerf guns, some ammunition and some boxes or trees for hiding. Smaller families can enjoy hopscotch, jump rope or hula-hoops. Get as creative as you like. Family dance party, anyone?
  3. Go for a walk. Most kids are not very enthusiastic about taking an “after dinner walk” with their parents. Make it more interesting by calling it something exciting like an Adventure Hike or Nature Walk. Invite them to bring a bag or basket to collect things (leaves, sticks and rocks can be used for crafts later), or ask them to see how many creatures they can spot along the way.
  4. Run or bike together. One day, (hopefully soon) we will be running 5Ks again. Many races offer shorter distance runs for younger kids and it is so exciting to receive a medal at the end. Include them in choosing a race to run together. Many local races like the Hot Chocolate Run in Tampa or the Cupcake race in St. Pete offer sweet treats at the end. Now is also the perfect time to dust off your bicycles and take off those training wheels.
  5. Kids emulate what they see. If you are a parent who is a regular gym-goer, it is not unusual for kids to want to participate in the same kind of exercise they see you doing in the gym. Start with bodyweight exercises like jumping jacks, squats, push-ups and crunches. You can use these four exercises in a circuit format and do it along with them for a certain number of repetitions or time. Anything that you enjoy doing for exercise, whether it is yoga, Zumba, running or biking are things they are likely to enjoy doing with you. 

How much exercise is enough?

Kids should get at least 60 minutes of exercise per day, but the good news is it does not have to be all at once. Have fun incorporating some of these in to your daily routine and the whole family will reap the immunity boosting health benefits.

Photo by Howie Mac Photo | Originally published in Tampa Bay Parenting’s June Issue.

Angela Fulgieri
Angela Fulgieri
Angela Fulgieri is the Program Director of Senior Health and Well-Being at the Campo Family YMCA in Valrico, FL.

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