When classes finish it means a chance to finally stretch legs that have been folded under desks during the school year. Getting regular exercise is an essential activity for healthy kids, and during the summer families can find a myriad of fun ways to get blood pumping.
Rowing classes, baseball, soccer and even log rolling will be offered through local churches and community centers all season.
“It is important for children to be active and outdoors during the summer months,” said Tammy Berdahl, recreation supervisor for the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area. “We as Alaskans are blessed with an abundance of sunshine a few short months out of the year and we do our best to take full advantage of that time. For many families the outdoor aspect is easier in the summer.”
Berdahl said staff at the recreation center give “ample consideration” to integrating exercise into the daily schedule and through summer camps. Swimming, cooking, pottery, crafts, log rolling, games and football are only a few of the many chances kids will have to nourish their health and wellbeing through physical activity this year, she said.
Located at the recreation center are a few opportunities for less-directed play. A playground, disc golf course, volley ball court and extensive trail system are all set up throughout the service area for a range of personal exploration, she said.
For kids who are also looking to take part in team activities, Kenai Peninsula Pop Warner is offering football for five days each week, including practices and games. KPPW Secretary Sara Bieber said the local chapter of the national organization promotes physical development of their “athletes through age appropriate activities.”
“Exercise for kids is important, regardless of the time of year,” Bieber said. “There are so many benefits to exercise — reducing a dangerous trend of childhood obesity, building immune systems and improving mental health are just a few. We very much promote the ideology, as do many organizations from the NFL (National Football League) to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), that kids should play 60 minutes a day, even when it’s cold outside.”
During the summer months it can sometimes be a challenge to get kids interested in the activities and exercise they need.
“Kids also lose the structure and habit of school physical education programs or recess, have more time on their hands and plenty of gadgets to play with that might seem more fun than a bike ride or throwing around a football in the yard,” Bieber said. “It’s also a lot easier to turn to sugary snacks and drinks. It is so important for our youth to be active and exercising in some form for at least 60 minutes a day for a whole host of physical, mental and emotional health reasons.”
Nancy Saylor, president of the Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association, also touted the many benefits of getting exercise through team activities.
“Crew rowing is a very technical and physically demanding sport,” Saylor said. “It teaches teamwork, hones concentration skills, develops mental toughness and builds confidence and fitness all while getting an awesome aerobic workout. There is no other workout like it! With everyone in the boat having to be in sync, it is the ultimate team sport.”
She said it is good for kids to get a variety of exercise to improve motor skills, muscle development and body awareness, as well as getting the chance to meet knew people, “expand their boundaries and keeps boredom at bay.”
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church Rob Guenther said his church staff tries to host as many different kinds of activities as resources allow over the summer. Kids can learn football, basketball, foursquare. Frisbee golf and soccer through the physical education classes offered for kindergarten through eighth graders during the school year, and in the summer they attend the Path to Victory Soccer Camp, he said.
“It’s hard not to get in of shape when you’re playing soccer,” Guenther said. “There’s so much running involved across the distance of the field it definitely promotes good health. The fresh air is an added bonus compared to sometimes-stuffy gymnasiums. But it’s great cardio exercise to be running around on the field.”
Guenther said team sports help build life skills including communication, compassion, learning to lose well and sharing.
“Our goal is to get them a little bit of experience in a lot of different activities,” he said. “We’re hoping they find one or two that they love and continue enjoying those activities to be fit for life.”
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org