A visit to an amusement park may not be the most typical example of family energy balance, but with a little planning, today’s parks offer families a lot of fun and even thrilling ways to burn calories and be fit.
The first is walking. Walking at a brisk pace not only burns calories, it also increases your heart rate, helps maintain muscle mass, keep joints flexible (which helps prevent joint-related injuries) and is a great way to socialize and see the sights. Many of today’s amusement parks are on large parcels of land with miles of paths and a variety of terrains winding through all of the attractions. If you wear a pedometer, you may be surprised to see you may walk at least 12,000 steps in a day at the park.
To calculate your approximate calories burned use the following equation:
|Calculating Total Distance:|
|Your total steps:||÷||2000||=||Your miles:|
|Calculating Total Calories:|
|Your miles:||X||100||=||Your calories:|
Another way to get your heart rate going is the adrenaline rush of riding roller coasters and other thrill rides. Adrenaline, also called epinephrine, is the “fight or flight” hormone. It causes the body to rev up—increasing heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. The temporary increases are not dangerous for healthy individuals. (People with cardiovascular concerns should consult their physician.) The release of adrenaline heightens your senses and adds to the excitement.
You can check the effect of a roller coaster on your heart rate by counting your heart rate before and after the ride. To get your heart rate, place your first two fingers in the groove along your neck. You will feel your carotid artery which carries blood to your brain. Count how many beats you feel in 15 seconds. The check your heart rate before the ride and immediately after the ride and notice the difference.
We all know that there is also a lot of down time at parks waiting in line. Why not do a few exercises while standing in line? Stretch your abs by leaning to the right and then to the left a few times. Release tension with some shoulder rolls. Stretch your shoulders by lifting your arm over your head, grab your elbow with the opposite hand and gently pull down towards the opposite shoulder. Of course, be mindful of others in line and smile while you stretch.
Of course the other side of energy balance, energy from food, is also key. Many amusement parks are offering more wholesome fare such as fruit and yogurt cups, salads and whole grain wraps. Many parks are now listing the calories of snacks, treats and other menu items to help parents and families make nutritious choices. Remember to keep hydrated by drinking lots of water, especially on hot summer days.
So get out and enjoy the thrills of balancing energy!
Debra Miller, PhD is Director of Public Policy Development, Nutrition, Health & Food Safety at The Hershey Company, a founding member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. The Hershey Company believes that well-being is a matter of balance, the ability to make informed choices and enjoying the goodness of every day moments.