Why your pic­nic should be about more than the food

DON’T JUST EAT AL FRESCO, EX­ER­CISE TOO, SAYS FIT­NESS EX­PERT MICHELLE CHILDS

Llanelli Star - - FAMILY HEALTH - ■ Michelle Childs is i a health de­vel­op­ment man­ager at Life Leisure sports trust (lifeleisur­e. net)

WE ALL love picnics, they’re some­thing you can do any­where, whether it’s down at the lo­cal park, at the top of a hill or sim­ply in the back gar­den.

It’s clin­i­cally proven that both sunshine and ex­er­cise will help boost your sero­tonin lev­els, mak­ing you hap­pier, health­ier and more re­laxed. Sun­light also helps boost vi­ta­min D lev­els, help­ing build stronger bones and a more ro­bust im­mune sys­tem.

Add to this the ef­fort and work re­quired to get your pic­nic to where you want to eat, and you’ve got a day that is filled with ac­tiv­ity to keep your heart healthy and your mood bright.

CHOOS­ING a pic­nic spot you can only reach by foot or bike will en­sure the whole fam­ily puts some ef­fort in be­fore sit­ting down to eat.

Add a slight, mod­er­ate or steep in­cline to the mix (de­pend­ing on fit­ness lev­els) and you will en­sure your heart is work­ing hard to keep you fit and healthy.

Cy­cling and walk­ing are some of the easiest forms of ex­er­cise for fam­i­lies to do to­gether.

There are plenty of web­sites where you can download maps for scenic routes across the whole of the UK, with the char­ity Sus­trans (sus­trans.org.uk) pro­vid­ing some great ad­vice for both cy­clists and walk­ers. Choos­ing ac­ces­si­ble routes specif­i­cally geared to­wards chil­dren will en­sure that it’s suitable for the whole fam­ily, es­pe­cially if you re­quire a pushchair­friendly route.

IF BIK­ING and walk­ing isn’t your thing, a pic­nic at the park is also a great op­tion.

You can en­cour­age play be­fore and af­ter you sit down to eat, en­sur­ing you get that all-im­por­tant ex­er­cise in.

Games such as rounders, foot­ball and play­ing catch will en­sure that every­one gets in­volved. Not only will it be good for your fit­ness, it will also help your chil­dren de­velop their hand-eye co-or­di­na­tion as well as help them work up an ap­petite.

DON’T undo all your good work by slip­ping too many cakes and bis­cuits into your pic­nic.

You may feel that you all de­serve a treat for the ef­fort you’ve put in, es­pe­cially af­ter a gru­elling walk or run around, but try and en­sure the meal is bal­anced with some healthy snacks such as fruit or car­rot sticks, which can be very re­fresh­ing on warmer sum­mer days.

Fin­ger food is a great choice be­cause you don’t need to worry about cut­lery or plates, but try and avoid too much pre-pack­aged food.

It’s of­ten full of hid­den fats and sug­ars, while lack­ing es­sen­tial fi­bre and nu­tri­ents – not to men­tion all the plas­tic it comes in.

AN­OTHER great thing about picnics is that they don’t re­quire any book­ing or com­mit­ment.

Keep your eye on the weather and con­sider chang­ing your plans to fit in with the fore­cast.

If it’s a sunny day but you can’t get out into the coun­try­side or to a

nearby park, why not pic­nic in your own back gar­den?

You’ll still ben­e­fit from the fresh air and can use it as an ex­cuse to play some fam­ily games.

Why not work to­gether to set out an as­sault course to keep the kids from drift­ing back in­side to their com­put­ers and tablets?

Or what about a cir­cuit race with lots of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties in each cor­ner of the gar­den?

Then there’s some­thing to keep every­one happy.

THE weather can of­ten put the ki­bosh on days out, but it’s im­por­tant to be sun safe when you’re out and about – even on cloudy days!

In the UK you can burn even if it’s cloudy – 87% of the sun’s rays pass through cloud cover – so it’s im­por­tant to be safe even if it doesn’t feel too hot.

It’s all too easy to burn, so make sure you wear a hat and sun­glasses when the sun’s out, and al­ways use sun­screen – at least SPF 30 for the kids and SPF 15 for adults.

In hot weather an ‘easy ex­er­cise’ like a walk or steady bike ride can still tax the body and leave you sus­cep­ti­ble to heat re­lated ill­nesses, like heat stroke.

Keep an eye on chil­dren, those who are preg­nant, older or ill, as they’re more sus­cep­ti­ble to de­hy­dra­tion and heat re­lated ill­nesses.

It’s re­ally im­por­tant to re­main hy­drated, es­pe­cially on hot days. Make sure you carry enough wa­ter for every­one, es­pe­cially if the place you’re go­ing for your pic­nic doesn’t have a tap or shop.

If the tem­per­a­ture or fore­cast is for hot weather, it’s a good idea to scale back your plans or limit your ac­tiv­ity to cooler parts of the day.

It’s usu­ally hot­ter dur­ing the mid­dle of the day, so avoid ex­er­cis­ing at this time.

Choose a pic­nic spot that is shaded, or set off when tem­per­a­tures have dropped.

Whether you choose to lay out a blan­ket in the back gar­den or spend the day climb­ing a nearby peak, a day spent mov­ing and eat­ing out­doors is a day well spent when it comes to your fam­ily’s health and a well­be­ing.

Choose a shady spot to have your pic­nic

Make sure you slap on the SPF even if it’s cloudy

Bike to your pic­nic spot and get some valu­able ex­er­cise

Keep the fam­ily hy­drated

Car­rot sticks make for a healthy snack

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