Family Friendly Outdoor Activities

A family hike can be a great way to spend time with each other and get some exercise.
With the hectic schedules of today's families, it seems as though there's rarely extra time for physical activity. However, David Marshall, M.D., medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta recommends that families should map out and plan time for activities to ensure they are added to the daily routine.
  • Family walks -- lasting 20-30 minutes will provide the daily recommended 20-30 minutes of moderate physical aerobic activity.
  • Biking -- has similar benefits to walking.
  • Hiking -- has similar benefits to walking and biking.
  • Soccer -- provides aerobic activity and gives personal satisfaction of acquiring and improving on new skills (i.e. running, jumping, kicking, throwing, etc.). This will also begin to teach the young athlete teamwork and sportsmanship.
  • Gardening -- is a fun way to teach the importance of daily care/maintenance and learn about healthy eating. In addition, the family can get satisfaction in eating the harvest.
  • Golf (if kids are old enough) -- provides aerobic exercise and introduces children to a life-long activity.
  • Orienteering -- is a fun, different activity that introduces kids to maps, compass, directions, distance, etc.

Benefits of physical activity:

  • Physical benefits include a decrease in the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure for all age groups.
  • Mental benefits include appreciation of outdoor fun, nature, scenery, sunlight and fresh air. Hopefully, kids and families will begin to look forward to outdoor activities rather than a new video or computer game.
Health and safety considerations for outdoor activities:
  • Apply sunscreen liberally with SPF 30 or higher. Try to avoid direct sunlight during peak hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Wear a brimmed hat.
  • Apply insect repellant if in or near wooded areas. Check for ticks at night if in wooded areas.
  • Use appropriate safety equipment such as bike helmets, padding, shin guards and life vests (if around water.)
  • Wear bright, reflective clothing for nighttime activities.
  • Carry a basic first aid kit with a flashlight.
  • For overnight activities or trips, tell a neighbor where you're going, the location of the trails and when you expect to return.
  • Always carry a cell phone with a charged battery.
  • Walkie-talkies are handy for hiking and orienteering.
  • Stay hydrated. Water is best if the activity will last an hour or less. For activities lasting over an hour, try to drink a beverage with sugar or carbohydrates such as a sports drink. Before the activity, drink until no longer thirsty plus another 8-12 ounces. During the activity, drink 6 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes, even if you're not thirsty during scheduled breaks. Once you feel thirsty, you're already mildly dehydrated.
  • Monitor the weather conditions the day before and the day of the activity. If there are thunderstorms in the area or you see lightning and thunder within 30 seconds, seek shelter such as a metal car, building or provided storm shelter. NEVER hide under a tree or use a phone with a wire. If you're caught in an open field with lightning, crouch or squat down on the balls of your feet to get low and to minimize your contact with the ground. Place your hands over your ears.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the leading pediatric healthcare systems in the country, is a not-for-profit organization that benefits from the generous philanthropic and volunteer support of our community. Operating three hospitals with more than half a million patient visits annually, Children's is recognized for excellence in cancer, cardiac, neonatal, orthopaedic and transplant services, as well as many other pediatric specialties. To learn more about Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, visit our Web site at or call 404-250-KIDS.

Discuss This Article