We all want our kids to exercise, and most of us could add more activity to our days, too. Making physical activity a family affair is a great way to achieve both those goals at once.
Creating a Family Activity Chart is an easy way to plan activities, motivate the family to get active, and track your family’s progress toward 60 minutes of active play every day
Erin Kirkland, founder of the website AKonthego.com
, says the best way to get started is to keep it simple. There are some free activity charts you can download online, or create your own as a family craft project (see example 1
2, or example
Then, identify time slots for activities, such as taking a walk, playing sports or doing active chores. Choose times of the day or week when everyone is most likely to stick to the schedule. Then work together as a family to set an easy, reachable goal.
“If you go too big to start, it becomes impossible to meet your goal, and that makes it less fun,” Kirkland said. “Set a simple goal for your family to start with, like after dinner every day, we are all going to go for a walk for 15 or 20 minutes.”
But Kirkland emphasizes that not all activity needs to be pre-planned. Spontaneous play time counts as activity as well.
“Grab a soccer ball, grab a football, or just take a little walk together,” Kirkland said. “Even something as simple as playing tag. Kids don’t play a lot like they used to and I think family play time together is very important in building and maintaining those relationships. As adults, we lose some of that sense of play and I think it is important to show your kids you can still play and have fun, and it encourages them to do it as well.”
Once your family is in the habit of being active together, you can plan longer or more intensive activities for a few days a week. None of your family activities need to be costly, either. You can choose to walk or ride bikes to school or the bus stop; use local, low-cost, or free places like public parks, baseball fields, and basketball courts; attend family nights or other physical activity events at your child’s school or local community centers; and bring along balls, kites, jump ropes, or other items that can be used for active play whenever you leave the house.
“Stop and look at what you’ve got right around you,” she said. “Don’t feel like you have to make a big monetary investment, because the important thing is to spend time together and be active and the rewards will pay off big-time.”
“I would encourage families to find a charitable organization that needs yard work and make a regular weekly or monthly commitment of time,” she said. “Find out if a senior citizen neighbor needs house cleaning or snow removal, or you could volunteer to walk dogs at the animal shelter. The kids will be proud of their contributions at the same time that they will be active and it sets the stage for more than one lifelong healthy habit!”
Have you ever seen hundreds of kids warming up alongside Olympic athletes, and then taking off in on
e mad dash through Anchorage’s trails?
Get ready for the Anchorage Cross Country Running Jamborees that are happening all over this city in September.
The annual elementary school running event started almost 30 years ago by Mike Allan, a physical education teacher at Baxter Elementary in the Anchorage School District (ASD). The event has expanded over the years throughout the city. Today, there are three, free running Jamborees in north Anchorage, south Anchorage, and Eagle River. Many schools help their students get ready for the fun runs by organizing after-school running clubs. These clubs help kids build endurance and confidence by running around the schools and playing physical activity games.
"The Jamborees are an excellent opportunity for children to be introduced to organized running in a healthy environment that does not emphasize winning," said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures. "The last child to finish is celebrated the same as the first."
Here are the dates, times and locations for the upcoming Anchorage Cross Country Running Jamborees:
• South Anchorage Jamboree — Saturday, Sept. 17, starting at 10 a.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Service High School.
ASD teachers coordinating the South Jamboree: Michel Woods, Abbott Loop PE teacher; Nick Leiser, Trailside PE teacher; and Deb Clayton, Abbott Loop classroom teacher
• Beach Lake (Eagle River) Jamboree — Thursday, Sept. 22, starting at 5:30 p.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails.
ASD teachers coordinating the Beach Lake Jamboree: Caela Nielsen, Ravenwood PE teacher, and Chris Ruggles, Eagle River Elementary PE teacher
• North Anchorage Jamboree — Tuesday, Sept. 27, starting at 5:30 p.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Bartlett High School.
ASD teachers coordinating the North Jamboree: Ben Elbow and Jill Singleton, both Rogers Park PE teachers
Parents are encouraged to pre-register their children for the Jamborees at their schools. All children must have a signed waiver before participating in the event. Ask your child’s physical education teacher for more information about the Jamboree in your area.
Photograph courtesy of the Anchorage School District
The 2016 Fall Healthy Futures Challenge
is about to begin in almost half of Alaska’s elementary schools. Just five years ago, in 2011, only 34 schools in 4 school districts took part in the twice-annual effort to encourage Alaska’s kids to get out and play, every day. Today, 197 schools in 34 school districts are registered to take part. That’s great news for the future health and well-being of our youngest Alaskans.
The Healthy Futures Challenge is a three-month challenge that takes place each spring and fall for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day
for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health.
Participation is free, and children win fun prizes throughout the challenge for being active. As a bonus, the prizes are typically things that children can use to be even more active.
Participating schools that achieve at least 20 percent student participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge will be eligible to receive a $200 grant. Schools can use this money to purchase educational materials or equipment that supports student physical activity — a bonus for educators facing shrinking budgets.
Natasha Bergt’s school received a $200 grant last year, which helped her purchase equipment her students can use at recess.
“Recess is a great time for kids that don’t have parents driving them to hockey or ballet or other after-school activities to get their 60 minutes a week in,” said Bergt, a PE teacher at Huffman Elementary School in Anchorage. “We’ve been a huge Healthy Futures school right from the start. We have kind of made it part of our school language that we should all be active at least 60 minutes a day. It’s a conversation that keeps reinforcing that you need an hour of exercise a day.”
Healthy Futures organizers say they hope even more schools sign up for the challenge this time.
"We're thrilled that 196 schools have already signed up for the fall Healthy Futures Challenge, and we're excited to bring more schools on with the goal of 200 statewide participating,” said Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures Challenge Coordinator. “The Challenge is a fun, free opportunity for schools and communities to encourage their youth to develop the habit of daily physical activity."
Is your school signed up for the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late to sign up online
School’s about to start, so take a look on the walls at your child’s school to see if you can spot Play Every Day’s newest messages about the importance of physical activity and the health risks of sugary drinks.
For the past few years, Play Every Day has been sending its posters to hundreds of schools across Alaska. Many of them are stilling hanging up – showing kids and parents how much sugar is hiding in sugary drinks (a 20-ounce bottle of soda can have the same amount of sugar as 16 chocolate mini doughnuts.)
This year’s posters touch on two pieces of news:
• First, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, filmed new public service announcements (PSAs) this summer featuring Alaska parents and adults in Bethel and Unalakleet who help children in their communities be physically active.
• And second, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued its new recommended limit for the amount of added sugar you eat and drink every day.
Play Every Day took this news from the Dietary Guidelines and photographs from filming families this summer and turned them into a new poster series for schools and health clinics across Alaska.
Let’s start with the new PSAs and posters that focus on physical activity. One PSA includes Nick Iligutchiak Hanson, a Unalakleet man who participated in the American Ninja Warrior TV competition this summer. Nick doesn’t just focus on his own physical activity. He spends a lot of time motivating children to be active through his free running club, his obstacle course on the beach, and his involvement in playing neighborhood games. The second PSA features the Iverson family from Bethel who gets children moving through playing, coaching sports, and heading to fish camp. Schools are receiving several new posters that feature Nick Hanson, the Iverson family, and children who get out and play in Unalakleet and Bethel.
Play Every Day has two new posters and two-sided rack cards focused on drinking water instead of sugary drinks. In January, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that people limit the amount of added sugar they eat and drink every day to less than 10 percent of their total daily calories. As an example, an adult eating an average of 2,000 calories a day should limit their consumption of added sugar to 12 ½ teaspoons each day. Play Every Day took that recommendation and communicated it using sugary drinks. One bottle of soda (with 16 teaspoons of added sugar) and one tall glass of a powdered drink mix (with 11 teaspoons of added sugar) have more sugar than a child should consume in one day. That bottle of soda has more added sugar than anyone should eat or drink in one day. The text across the top of the new posters drives home the main message: Even one sugary drink each day is too much.
Do you want to help us share these messages? We have more posters and rack cards and can mail them across Alaska. Please email email@example.com or call 907-269-3433 to have posters sent to you.
Earlier this year, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed a bill designating every August 10 as Alaska Wild Salmon Day.
The annual celebration of all-things-salmon came about from a bill sponsored by Alaska State Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). He said he hopes this day will promote healthy and delicious Alaska wild salmon, and recognize the importance of salmon subsistence fishing, recreational fishing and commercial fishing.
At Play Every Day, we’re excited to celebrate salmon’s place on Alaska dinner plates (and breakfast, lunch, and snack plates as well). Wild Alaska salmon is an excellent source of lean protein, and it boasts high concentrations of heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. People who eat one to two servings of salmon or other fish each week reduce their risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.
Health leaders in Alaska recommend that everyone eat fish at least twice a week for the best health. Alaska wild salmon is low in an environmental contaminant called mercury, so state health leaders recommend unrestricted consumption of all species of wild salmon, as well as other types of fish caught in Alaska waters.
Adding Alaska wild salmon to your plate this week?
Search for wild Alaska salmon recipes online: http://recipes.alaskaseafood.org/
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 (2 cups each)
2 packages (8 oz. each) risotto with mushrooms
1 cup fresh mushrooms (button, crimini or porcini), cut into bite-size pieces
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth (regular or low sodium)
4 Alaska Salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz. each) fresh, thawed or frozen
Pepper, to taste
10 to 12 oz. fresh asparagus (sliced into 2-inch pieces) and/or peas, blanched
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
• Prepare risotto according to package directions adding mushrooms, but cooking just three-quarters of total time, about 15 to 18 minutes.
• While risotto is cooking, bring chicken broth to a simmer in a large (12-inch) nonstick pan or stockpot.
• If salmon is frozen, rinse off any ice glaze under cold water.
• Turn off heat and gently add seafood to the chicken broth, skin side down.
• Return heat to a simmer. Once simmering, cover pan and cook 4 to 5 minutes for frozen salmon or 2 minutes for fresh/thawed fish.
• Turn off heat and let seafood rest in liquid for 5 minutes, until seafood is opaque throughout.
• Remove salmon from broth, season with pepper and cool slightly.
• Add asparagus/peas and Parmesan to partially cooked risotto; finish cooking risotto.
• Break salmon into large chunks (removing skin, if any) and gently fold salmon and basil into risotto.
Families across Alaska have stories to share about how they help their own children — and their community’s children — be physically active. This summer, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
, visited two communities to help tell those stories.
We’ve talked about our visit with Nick Hanson
, the American Ninja Warrior
contestant in Unalakleet who coaches and mentors children of all ages. In June, we also visited Bethel and met the Iverson family. Watch our new TV public service announcements featuring Nick Hanson
and the Iversons
helping their communities be physically active.
Carolyn and Shane Iverson are raising three children in Bethel, a community along the Kuskokwim River. Carolyn is Yup’ik, grew up in Akiak until age 5, and has lived in Bethel for years. That’s where she met her husband, Shane. They have two boys and a girl — all under the age of 8. Carolyn is a social worker with the Lower Kuskokwim School District and Shane is the general manager for KYUK.
The Iversons are busy, but they work hard to make sure their whole family is active every day. They limit TV time and don’t have video games. They make physical activity a daily priority by finding ways to weave activity into their family’s day.
“Sometimes people think physical activity needs to be separate from their daily lives,” Carolyn said. “When you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle, that’s when it will be easiest to maintain.”
Activity is a part of the kids’ school day. The boys do Native dance twice a week at the Yup’ik Immersion School. After school, the Iverson children play basketball, wrestle, do judo or play soccer — depending on the season. When school’s out for the summer, they pick berries or take trips to the sand pits to run around and play. They often take a boat to their fish camp so they can fish together on the river.
The Iverson family has found a way to be active and help the community be active at the same time. In the summer, Shane coaches soccer while his children play the game. During the school year, Carolyn coaches girls basketball and Shane assists. Carolyn calls physical activity a “family affair.”
“If my kids are in wrestling, then our whole family goes to wrestling,” she said. “In basketball, when we coach, our whole family goes to basketball and they’re in the gym. So any time we have somebody doing something, our whole family goes. Shane will play Ultimate Frisbee, and our kids will be playing off on the sidelines.”
Carolyn says she gives her time to help young kids because she wants them to think about the importance of being physically active. She wants to inspire them to maintain that level of activity throughout adulthood. She also wants to help them feel better about who they are, and start thinking about their goals for the future.
“We are trying to raise our kids to choose to be active and engage in things that make them feel good,” Carolyn said.
She encourages parents to join their kids in play. If your kids are playing outside, play with them. If your children are playing soccer, go with them to the soccer field. That’s what makes it more fun, she said.
This is how the Iversons are helping children in their community be physically active. What can you do in yours?
What does the self-described Eskimo Ninja do to prep for the Las Vegas finals of American Ninja Warrior? Set a world record in the men’s scissor broad jump during the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks.
Nick Iligutchiak Hanson’s leap of 37 feet, 5 inches last week pushed him into the record books and added another gold medal to his collection from the Arctic Winter Games and the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. The previous world record for the event was 36 feet, 7 inches. Yep, Nick set that record, too.
You might say his world-record leap vaults him into top form as he heads to the American Ninja finals in Las Vegas , where he will vie for the $1 million Ninja Warrior prize.
Nick — featured this month in a Play Every Day PSA to promote the importance of helping children be physically active every day — made it to the Los Angeles finals by nailing the obstacle course in the season premiere in Los Angeles that aired June 1. Over 6 million viewers watched the feat, according to Hollywood Reporter, making the premiere the most-watched network program of the night.
Nick then made it through the LA finals in the July 11 episode, qualifying him to compete in the Vegas finals later this summer.The show airs Mondays at 7 p.m.
What looks like a seamless run of success took years to develop. Nick competed in the Native Youth Olympics as a teenager and believes his subsistence lifestyle has helped him develop resilience and strength as an athlete. Last season, his first on American Ninja, he missed the regional finals by a fraction of a second.
Missing the cut prompted him to refocus and train harder, one of the key messages he wants to share and embody for the kids of his village, Unalakleet. They were the ones who convinced him to audition for American Ninja in the first place. They’re the ones who flock to his no-cost running club and join in games of tag and hide-and-seek. And they’re the ones Nick wants to inspire to dream big, work hard, and care about their community.
The 28-year-old teaching assistant coaches youth in basketball, volleyball and Native Olympic events, and mentors other Alaska athletes who want a shot at American Ninja. As a member of Arctic Winter Games Team Alaska, Nick proves that the Arctic games might be the training ground for the next Ninja Warrior.
Look for Nick on his You Tube channel, The Eskimo Ninja, and on TV in our PSA and American Ninja Warrior.
The state’s 6th annual Ted Stevens Day is coming up on July 23, 2016, and there are lots of fun activities planned around the state to help Alaskans get out and play. One of these family-friendly events in Anchorage is focusing on including children and adults who experience disabilities in playground fun.
The event organizers are encouraging families to bring their children — and their teddy bears — to the park between noon and 4 p.m. to enjoy a picnic, music, a parade and playtime.
“The activities are geared toward including all kids and families in the fun,” said Beth Nordlund, executive director of the Anchorage Park Foundation, one of the partners in the Teddy Bear Picnic event. “We hope kids enjoy a bit of pretend creative time, play on the playground, and have fun with the other kids. We hope the adults take advantage of this great community gathering for family fun while they learn about the importance of inclusive play. No child should have to sit on the side of a park — inclusive play is for all of us!”
Matias Saari, event support coordinator for Healthy Futures, says the organization is excited to be involved in the Ted Stevens Day event.
“The activities will be both fun and healthy, and we anticipate the event as a whole will build awareness of the Inclusive Play Movement and importance of wholesome outdoor opportunities for all kids,” he said.
Ted Stevens Day Teddy Bear Picnic
Cuddy Family Midtown Park, Anchorage
12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
A new series of online cooking videos produced in Alaska show how kids can take charge in the kitchen and prepare meals with healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The series was filmed through the Children’s Healthy Living Program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Cooperative Extension Service.
“Our goal was to show parents that preparing healthy meals with fruits, vegetables and legumes is easy,” said Andrea Bersamin, an associate professor at UAF who works with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research and the Children’s Healthy Living Program. This program is a funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve child health in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Palau, Micronesia, and the Northern Mariana and Marshall islands.
Each short video features a child helping to prepare and cook foods that are readily available in most parts of Alaska, like beans, kale, oatmeal, and vegetable fried rice. You can watch the videos at http://uaf.edu/ces/districts/matsu/hhfd/chl/.
“The idea is that kids can get involved in cooking even at a young age, and it makes them more likely to want to taste the food if they help make it,” said Bersamin. “The overnight oats video shows just the child making the whole thing, no adults. These recipes are easy and fun to make.”
The videos were filmed in the UAF Cooperative Extension kitchen in Fairbanks and feature Alaska families. Bersamin said the group has plans to make additional cooking demonstration videos using traditional Alaska Native and subsistence foods.
Summer sports are kicking up – soccer, mountain biking, and softball. But just because you play sports doesn’t mean you need sports drinks. A number of coaches and other sports professionals are advising their athletes to make better choices when they hydrate their bodies.
Matt Thomas is one of these coaches.
“(Sports and energy) drinks are short-burst stimulants, and can have a lot of sugar, and they are not the right type of thing to be putting into your body routinely,” said Thomas, the head coach for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves men’s hockey team. “We discourage our players from drinking them and we educate them on the proper, healthier ways to hydrate and create the needed focus and energy. We understand that there isn’t a very good correlation to performance from using sports or energy drinks.”
Thomas says he encourages his players to consume healthy meals when training or preparing for a game, and to choose drinks like water or milk.
“We know that water is always a good choice,” he said.
Thomas said his hockey players, like many college students, don’t always make the best food and drink choices, but part of their pre-season training is meeting with a sports nutritionist.
“We give the kids an opportunity to get good information on how to fuel your body the proper way,” he said. “These guys are grown men who can make their own decisions, but they are interested in what they should consume to make their bodies work best, and they understand there are other things you can do for your body that are better than sports drinks.”
Rikki Keen is a sports nutritionist who has worked with the UAA Men’s Hockey team many times. She discourages sports and energy drinks for athletes of all ages, but especially for children under 18.
“Kids are growing rapidly, and of all the times of their lives, this is not the time to be consuming those poor-nutrient-based drinks,” she said.
Keen worries about the way these beverages are marketed, to make it seem like they are what your body requires during or after exercising. The drinks come in pretty colors and flavors, she said. Their labels often say they contain electrolytes, like sodium or potassium, that your body loses when you sweat during physical activity. But Keen says you can get more sodium and potassium in a cup of milk than from a sports drink.
“Calories are not created equal,” Keen said. “You need to ask yourself: Is it necessary to have a sports drink when you can get the same things from a banana and water?”