Spring is the perfect time to step up foot-powered transportation. Whether it's in the park or around the neighborhood, walking is a great way to get some exercise, reduce your carbon footprint and bond with your kids. But there's more than one way to walk!
Here, family fitness expert Catherine Holecko shares a few of the tricks (um, motivation) she uses to inspire kids and parents alike to hit the pavement:
Put on a Pedometer
Outfit kids with a simple pedometer -- Holecko recommends checking out GeoPalz for kid-friendly options -- to significantly increase their motivation. Tracking progress and working toward a specific goal can turn the average walk into an exciting event.
Outline an Objective
Before embarking on your walk, decide on an objective, such as filling an entire bag with litter or spotting five different kinds of birds, says Holecko. Kids will be less inclined to whine or claim boredom when they're occupied with a specific mission.
Nothing helps keep a young walker in the game like playing a game. Whether you're embarking on an easy stroll around the neighborhood or a lengthy journey to the center of town, playing a game keeps faces smiling and feet moving.
"I Spy," the classic car game, can easily be played while walking. Holecko breaks it down: Have a child scout for objects that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet -- "I spy with my little eye something that begins with ‘A.'" Then the next child, or adult, looks for things that begin with A, and so on.
"Count Off" is another fun activity for young kids: Everyone in the walking group keeps count of a specific object, such as squirrels, dandelions or white cars. To incorporate sound into a walk, kids and adults should walk single-file, and when a specific sound is heard -- think car honking or bird chirping -- the person at the end of the line gets to run up to the front.
Elevate Your Errands
Walking simply to walk is one thing, but walking with a specific errand in mind -- say, picking up some milk or dropping a pair of shoes off at the cobbler -- is another. Sure, walking to your errands is a lot easier in an urban area, where life is all about pedestrians and commerce. But suburban and rural walkers can get things done too. All it takes is a bit of planning and some motivation along the way.
Kids will click into longer walks by playing games en route -- see Holecko's ideas above -- and engaging in chitchat. A stay-in-the-moment attitude and an appreciation for the often rare family together-time will help adults enjoy extended strolls too.
Pave a New Path
If you or the kids find walking boring, creating a new walking scene is as easy as turning right when you always turn left. Use this opportunity to check out unexplored parts of your neighborhood. Look at the landscape and architecture, and note the people and animals.
Kids especially love the adventure of taking a new route. Give them ownership by allowing them to choose the direction the family takes, and then have them point out the new things they see.
Institute an After-dinner Walking Policy
Finally, bring a routine to family walking (weather permitting, of course). There is no better way to facilitate digestion and delay the inevitable pull toward the couch and TV than by taking a walk together after dinner. Take the same route or mix it up each night. Just be sure to get out of the house and onto the sidewalk!
Marisa Belger's work has appeared in Travel + Leisure Family, Natural Health, Prevention and TODAYShow.com, where she wrote a column about eco-friendly living. She was an editor at Lime.com and collaborated with author Josh Dorfman on his bestselling books, The Lazy Environmentalist and The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget.
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