I never met my Pop – my maternal grandfather. He died from a massive heart attack the year before I was born. Just 46 years old, he left behind eight children, the youngest of whom was eight. His death was a shock to everyone. He was a varsity athlete in high school, and went on to pitch for Notre Dame, and eventually signed a two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury knocked him out his first season, and an unsuccessful surgery effectively finished a promising major league career. He returned home to his high school sweetheart, my grandmother, and they started a family. Over the next twenty years, his athletic frame faded as his lifestyle changed. My mom has told me stories about him cooking two pounds of bacon on the weekend – one for him, and one for my grandmother and the eight kids.
What he didn’t realize, nor did anyone at that time, was the effect his eating habits were having on his heart. Routine cholesterol screenings were not performed in the United States until the 1980′s. Pop never had the chance to change his diet because he never knew the damage being done.
The rest of my family, myself included, has benefited from cholesterol screenings. High cholesterol is part of our genetic makeup, and influences many of the choices we make, including what we eat and how much we exercise.
So why am I writing about this? Because today the American Heart Association’s National Walking Day. According to their website:
Heart disease is this country’s No.1 killer. Statistics show that 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women are at risk for heart disease, and research shows that poor lifestyle is a major contributor.
My genetics alone put me at risk for heart disease. Kendra is in a similar boat. We are both committed to making heart-healthy choices for ourselves, and for Addison. One of these choices is to be adventurous and active!
Today, in honor of National Walking Day, and in memory of my Pop, we took Addison and our friend Janet’s daughter to the Stevens-Coolidge Place. It is a beautiful former farm turned estate that is now managed by the Trustees of the Reservation of Massachusetts. We love going there because of the incredible gardens and grounds that are open to the public year-round.
It was a gorgeous, sunny, warm day – perfect for our walk! The girls had a great time running around, exploring the greenhouse and the blooming flowers. Addie tried to climb a tree while Elizabeth inspected the crocuses. Eventually they tired out, so we settled down on some of the stone benches for a snack.
The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 30-minutes of walking per day for adults, and 60 minutes of outdoor activities for kids. So put your walking shoes on, and head outside with the kids! If you’re looking for something more to do than just a walk around the block, try out one of these family-friendly activities:
If your kids like treasure hunting, take them Geocaching! Using a GPS device, you search for hidden containers. When you find one, you sign the enclosed log proving your accomplishment. You can also log on to Geocaching.com to report your finds, as well as find the coordinates for caches in your area – with almost 2 million caches worldwide, there are bound to be plenty to choose from.
Similar to geocaching, with a dash of cross-country running thrown in, orienteering requires participants to find a series of checkpoints using traditional map and compass navigation. There are orienteering clubs all over the country – events are open to the public, and usually included training for beginners. It’s a great family activity that adds the spice of competition! To find your local club, go to the US Orienteering website.
3. Take a Nature Hike!
You don’t have to climb to the top of a mountain every time you hike – find a nature trail, or a beautiful garden like the one we visited at the Stevens-Coolidge Place, and take a leisurely family stroll. Encourage the kids to stop and examine bugs, or collect rocks. Kelly over at Chez Beeper Bebe has a great tutorial for making a Nature Explorer Bag for kids, complete with tins to hold found treasures, little notebooks to record field notes and sketches, and a magnifying glass to examine everything from insects to flowers.