It’s a beautiful Tuesday afternoon and our family of three leisurely rolls along the path lining the Eramosa River in single file on our bikes. Just a year ago bike rides like this were unfathomable. The journey from training wheels to “big kid” bike has been marked with tears, tantrums, curb crashes and a minor collision with an unsuspecting pedestrian couple. We’ve come a long way baby! Our little cyclist who once ranged from reluctant to timid now bravely breaks out of formation and over takes me on the left. He’s spotted the Boathouse, our local ice cream shop, on the horizon and has locked eyes on his target. Dinging his bike bell, he alerts pedestrians in the distance of his intentions. I’ve never seen this kid peddle so fast before! Apparently ice cream is a major motivator and I can’t disagree with its obvious allure.
I am a gym owner and personal trainer who is also a stepmom to an awesomely creative and imaginative little boy, Nolan, who loves to draw, read and above all else, play Minecraft. Gaming has provided him with hours of fun and creativity, but has also added a new and seductive fuel to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Everyone knows that exercise and physical activity are important in keeping our bodies and minds healthy but with the cancelation of sports and closure of gyms due to Covid-19 it has been particularly difficult for many people to meet their activity goals. Activity boasts many benefits, especially for mood as the increase in feel good endorphins it produces gives us a boost and helps regulate hormones and blood sugar. Unfortunately, a reduction or absence of physical activity has the opposite effect on our system, leaving us feeling lethargic and irritable. Kids struggle with all of these same feelings, but often can’t articulate them the same way adults do.
At about 8 weeks into quarantine, the weight of isolation and indoor life started to show on our son, and we had to change our quarantine game plan. A physical activity intervention proved the solution to grumpy moods and temper tantrums. Though initially met with resistance, our two a day outdoor activity breaks have turned into a fun family affair. Nolan and his Dad go out to shoot hoops daily and the three of us go for bike rides. It doesn’t hurt that our cycling routes often feature a pitstop for ice cream.
We are all experiencing major transition right now. We are all struggling to carve out new routines, new roles and new identities and kids are struggling through these changes too. Transition can be particularly tough for kids, especially when there are so few outlets for working off energy and emotions as many sports and camps are canceled for the summer. Our family is very lucky to own sports equipment like basket balls, tennis rackets and bikes but others do not. Helping families access these same resources by donating to the Children’s Foundation doesn’t just provide a toy to play with, but rather the tools to build a healthy body, create cross connections and neuro-pathways in the brain through movement, foster sportsmanship, create healthy relationships with exercise, and grow mental and emotional resiliency. Along with all of the aforementioned advantages, I have to include one last benefit. The creation of treasured family memories that will last a lifetime.