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Bright Futures

Outdoor exercise for children during COVID-19

May 11, 2020, Dr. Gary Kirkilas
Outdoor exercise for children during COVID-19

Many parents are wondering if it’s safe to venture outside with children during the COVID-19 outbreak. The good news is the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends children getting fresh air outdoors as well as 60 minutes of exercise per day. Most outdoor play can be done if social distancing is observed and only children from the same household are playing together.

Here’s a couple helpful tips to make going outdoors a safe and fun adventure:

  • As temperatures climb in Arizona, pay special attention to heat and hydration safety. Head outside in the morning or evening when the weather is cooler. Protect yourself and your kids with sunblock and carry plenty of water for every member of your family. Make sure you don’t venture too far from your home or car in case someone gets too hot and needs to cool off quickly. On heat advisory days, have adventures in your backyard or bring the fun indoors.
  • Many Phoenix and surrounding city playgrounds are closed. However, the open spaces and walking paths around the parks are still open. These offer great opportunities to go for a stroll, walk the dog, play catch, have a picnic or go on a family bike ride. Babies and toddlers are best kept in their strollers, but even a walk around the block can be an adventure. For older children, encourage them to create a nature journal where they record all the birds, flowers and cactus they see. When you return home, they can look up what they recorded to see if anyone can learn something new about our unique desert landscape. Remember, if the park seems bustling and social distancing is not possible, try another park.
  • Get into nature. It’s true some of the high-volume trail heads are closed (Camelback, Piestwa, Papago, and South Mountain), but several other trails systems remain open.  Alternate trail locations include the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, the Sonoran Desert Preserve and the Reach 11 Recreation Area. Again, this is a great opportunity to experience our desert parks. Usually weekdays are best, as weekend crowds tend to make social distancing difficult to manage.

If you need more reasons to safely head outdoors, research shows children who spend time outdoors have lower rates of obesity, perform better in school and have less anger and aggression. In addition, scheduling a daily outdoor stroll is a great way to break up the day and a great stress reliever for children who are now being homeschooled for the first time. Just remember to be safe, social distance, only play with members of the same household and always practice good hand hygiene.

Please remember, if you have questions about your child’s health or are unsure if they may have symptoms of COVID-19, the pediatricians at Phoenix Children’s are available to you via our new telemedicine system. You can see and speak with your regular pediatrician right from the comfort of your own home! Your pediatrician can do many of the same things through telemedicine as an in-person visit such as order medications and labs, review labs and do a modified physical exam. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 602-933-0495.

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