Why your picnic should be about more than the food
DON’T JUST EAT AL FRESCO, EXERCISE TOO, SAYS FITNESS EXPERT MICHELLE CHILDS
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