Walking, Biking into an Active Summer

Article Date: Jun 17, 2011

Sean Mullendore, M.D.
Bob Kent, M.D.

This summer will go down in history as the year of the great flood, but that doesn't have to dampen your plans to make it a healthy, active season, too. We huddled with Alegent Health Clinic physicians Sean Mullendore, M.D., and Bob Kent, M.D., for some tips on making this a more active – and safe – summer.

Find ways to ramp up family activities and cut down on screen time.

Let's face it. Many of us spend too many dimly lit hours in front of a computer or TV screen, especially during the winter. However, summer beckons us to pump up our activity level – and the whole family can benefit, according to Sean Mullendore, M.D., a family and sports medicine physician with Alegent Health Clinic in Bellevue.

Parents should set a good example by limiting their own ‘screen time' and getting the family to exercise together on a regular basis," said Dr. Mullendore. A family fitness challenge could be a great way to see who can accumulate the most time for physical activity each week."

How much exercise should you get? Well, if you're taking a brisk walk, Dr. Mullendore suggests walking for 30 consecutive minutes or more, five days a week. If you're jogging or doing other activity at a vigorous intensity, he suggests 20 or more consecutive minutes, three or more days a week.

For those who are overweight or inactive, Dr. Mullendore suggests moving gradually into activities over four to six weeks. Anything that gets the heart pumping is a good start – walking, riding bicycles – even taking trips to the zoo or the Old Market as a family are options."

Click here for more activities that you might enjoy.

Tips for staying active:

  • Stay hydrated. The easiest indicator is to drink enough fluids to keep your urine a very faint yellow color (i.e., dark yellow means you're not drinking enough)
  • Wear sunscreen if exercising outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Assess the screen time (TV, Internet, DVDs, video games) that you and your children get each day and set limits for everyone in the family.
  • Turn the TV off during meals and give all family members a chance to talk about their day. When children watch their favorite shows, encourage them to exercise (pushups, jumping jacks or crunches) during commercials.

Use street smarts when bicycle riding, starting with the #1 rule: Everyone needs to wears a helmet.
It doesn't matter how old you are – if you're riding a bicycle (or motorcycle for that matter) you need to wear a helmet. It's important to get the proper fit, too, says Bob Kent, M.D., a family practice physician with Alegent Health Clinic in Glenwood, Iowa.

If you don't wear a helmet, you're putting yourself at a great risk for brain injury, either temporary or permanent," said Dr. Kent. We're still learning about the long-term implications of head trauma, but we do know that wearing a helmet is absolutely essential for protection."

If someone takes a fall, signs of a head injury can include one or more of these symptoms: confusion, amnesia, loss of consciousness, disorientation, inability to focus, drowsiness or irritability. Consult your doctor right away if you have concerns.

You can greatly increase your safety on the road, by getting your gear in shape. That includes checking to make sure that your equipment is working properly and that your bicycle, as well as your helmet, is adjusted to fit you.

For adults, the safest place to ride bicycles is on the street, where they are expected to follow the same rules of the road as motorists. However, younger children need to stick to the sidewalks.

Kids under 10 are better off riding on the sidewalk," said Dr. Kent. They are just not mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street."

When riding on a sidewalk, children should learn to:

  • Watch for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways.
  • Stop at corners of sidewalks and streets to look for cars and make sure that drivers see you before crossing.
  • Enter a street at a corner and not between parked cars.
  • Alert pedestrians that you are behind them and getting closer with a bell or horn, or by saying "Excuse me" or Passing on your left."

Rules of the road:

  • See and Be Seen. Whether it's daytime, dawn, dusk or foul weather, you need to be seen by others. Wear reflective gear on your clothing. Avoid riding at night!
  • Control Your Bicycle. Always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars. Carry books and other items in a bicycle carrier or backpack.
  • Be Predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others. Always look before turning.
  • Stay Alert at All Times. Watch for and avoid road hazards.
  • Obey All Traffic Laws. When riding on the street, go with the traffic flow. Yield to traffic, when appropriate.

Reader Comments
Posted: Jun 23 2011 9:27 AM CST by Woolanda

Can you post any other bike ride events that are coming up this summer? The Owl Ride seems intriguing.

Posted: Jul 7 2011 7:52 AM CST by belinda mello

This year i have been very active in riding my bike along side my husband who was diagnosed with hodgkins lymphoma last Aug of 2010. Who by the way now is in remission. I also keep myself hydrated, and eat plenty of veggies and less meat. My weight has dropped by 5 pounds since riding my bike. We take the bike trails and enjoy the beautiful scenic routes here in Omaha. Our tv is not turned on until about 7 p.m.
if you decide to ride a bike after years of not doing so, at first go slow or you may end up over the top of the handlebars. And age is not a factor in this, im almost 60 and hubby is 61 we enjoy our rides. seniors at play!

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