According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, only one in three children is physically active every day and a staggering 12.5 million children are classified as obese by the Center For Disease Control And Prevention. A major contributor to this apparent malaise is the daily dose of TV, computer and console-based entertainment that children love. Keeping kids entertained can be difficult at the best of times, but there’s no doubt that a child’s daily average of some seven and a half hours in front of a screen, in one form or another, should give parents pause for thought.
Tip #1: Guidelines issued by physical education specialists at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggest a minimum of 60 minutes of physical aerobic activity daily for children ages 6-17, so a great fitness option would be to hop on a bicycle and head down to the Los Angeles South Bay.South Bay Bike Trail
20 13th St.
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
If you and the kids prefer cycling to walking, jogging or running you can take a bicycle ride out of Los Angeles on the Ballona Creek bike path and keep going until you hit the paved Strand — a 22-mile path that runs between Santa Monica and the Palos Verdes Peninsula — at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Alternatively you can park at the Hermosa Beach Pier (in the parking structure on Hermosa Avenue and 14th Court) and then head north on the Strand to Dockweiler Beach or south to Redondo and Palos Verdes. The trail makes use of some surface streets in Redondo Beach so this likely would not be suitable for young kids. Avoid lugging your bike to the beach by renting a strand cruiser from one of the many South Bay bike rental businesses like Hermosa Cyclery on 13th St.
Tip #2: The DHSS recommend that the majority of a one-hour block of exercise for children be devoted to moderate or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Consider taking the kids for a nature walk or a jog in a safe and secure environment like the pretty Veterans Parkway in Manhattan Beach.Veterans Parkway Trail
1200 Rosecrans Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Veterans Parkway/the Hermosa Greenbelt is a four-mile, wood chip-covered trail running between Manhattan and Hermosa Beach in the Los Angeles South Bay. Along with the trails on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and those at Will Rogers State Historical Park in Pacific Palisades, this is one of the prettiest urban running venues in Los Angeles so it will be easy to keep kids entertained as well as educated – the trail passes by the old gas lit residential section of Manhattan as well as the moving 9/11 memorial outside the MB police department. There are numerous water fountains, benches, workout stations and shade trees along the route with the option of heading down to the Strand for the return leg. Parking is available adjacent to the Strand at the northern end (below Fry’s Electronics just off Rosecrans), in Manhattan Beach (opposite Live Oak Park and off Ardmore opposite the Shade Hotel) and in Hermosa Beach (by City Hall).
Tip #3: The DHSS suggest including plenty of bone-strengthening physical activity in a kids’ daily fitness regimen including activities like walking, running, cycling and ice skating so head over to the Toyota Sports Center and help your kid become a star on ice.Toyota Sports Center
North Nash Street
El Segundo, CA 90245
Moms and dads can keep fit and have fun with their children during free skating sessions at the Toyota Sports Center –- one of the best ice skating venues in LA –- or can opt for beginner training classes for the kids. The rink offers both “Learn to Skate” and “Learn to Play” Ice Hockey classes (for 4-5 and 6-14 years old) throughout the year. Learn to skate classes – from gliding and swizzles to mohawks and bunny hops – are offered for Beach Babies (3-4 years old), Tots (4-5 years old) and Pre-Alpha, Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta (6-14 years).
Tip #4: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that kids work on their muscle strength using weights and resistance training. Having a child fetch and carry camping supplies is a perfect substitute for a jungle gym especially if you happen to be camping in a tree-filled campground deep in the heart of the city.Hopkins Wilderness Park
1102 Camino Real
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 318-0668 (information)
One of the coolest entertainment options available to Los Angeles-based parents and their kids is provided courtesy of the Redondo Beach Hopkins Wilderness Park, a tranquil 11-acre campground deep in the heart of the inner city. Here, visitors will find babbling streams and tranquil koi ponds surrounded by a sea of shade trees and sculpted gardens. You can visit the park for free or opt to day camp (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.) and overnight camp by reservation. The gated park offers a safe and secure environment for the kids to play, hunt for turtles or explore the short hiking trails while parents deal with the steaks and s’mores.
Tip #5: Give the family a moderate aerobic workout as well as a crash course in marine biology by taking a trip to Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes Estates.Tide Pools At Lunada Bay
Paseo Del Mar
Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274
The steep hike down to Lunada Bay will provide kids with a great aerobic workout while the rock pools at low tide will offer up an amazing array of marine life, including crustaceans and gastropods for their enjoyment. While younger beachcombers scramble around the rock pools, older teens can take advantage of the excellent free diving opportunities (the surfing is for experts only at this spot). Once the kids are worn out, head up to the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, where they can learn about some of the largest mammals on the planet and possibly spot some with the help of the resident Point Vicente whale watching team.
Julian Gothard is an internationally published freelance writer covering all things Los Angeles. You can check out his popular RVing and travel column at Examiner.com.