Active kids are healthy kids

Equipped with life jackets, beginning swim students take turns leaping from the lifeguard chair into the pool at the Astoria Aquatic Center. From left are Cayden Weaver, 8, and his younger brother, Garret Weaver, 7, both of Warrenton, Torin Keefe, 5, of Astoria, and, jumping into the water, Chloe Ferrero, 7, of Astoria.<br><i>ALEX PAJUNAS PHOTO</i>

If your household has an Xbox, a Facebook login or a TV that gets the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, chances are you have kids. And a combination of kids and electronic entertainment means you probably struggle with keeping those kids active and healthy, instead of sprawled on the couch, mesmerized by an LCD?or plasma screen.

The Centers for Disease Control take our kids' health very seriously. According to a 2008 study, physical inactivity increases the risk of dying prematurely, dying of heart disease and developing diabetes, colon cancer and high blood pressure.

Want more scary facts? The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years, going from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 17 percent in 2006. The rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled, increasing from 5 percent to 17.6 percent.

But there's good news as well. Regular physical activity, they say, not only helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles and helps reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, but it reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being. So now there's scientific proof that healthy kids are happy kids.

And in a 2002 survey, 77 percent of children aged 9 to 13 reported participating in free-time physical activity during the seven days preceding the survey. So despite the marathon video game sessions, adolescents do still go out and play.

The trick for parents is finding high-quality activities that provide a safe and enriching environment for their children. Fortunately, local parks departments are all about just that. Here's a sampling of what you can offer your kids as a healthy alternative to their moderate TV, computer and video game usage.

Astoria Parks & Recreation

Tiny tots can enjoy all sorts of themed adventures at Lil' Day Camp, in morning or afternoon sessions on various dates in June, July and August. Pint-sized athletes can experience rock climbing, tee ball, soccer and dance, and budding artists will revel in Messy Art classes.

School-age kids have a summer's worth of Young n' Active Day Camps to choose from, with themes ranging from Olympic games to nature exploration and science adventures. There are also Kid Fun classes that introduce youngsters to BMX?biking, skateboarding and dance team.

For teens and tweens, Astoria Parks offers Camp Extreme, three-week sessions of day camps with a focus on fun activities including rock climbing, horseback riding, surfing and swimming. A progressive program in Ultimate Frisbee introduces older kids to this fast, free-flowing game with elements of basketball, football and soccer. And there are even two Ultimate Gamer video game tournaments scheduled for the summer.

Adults need to stay active, too - and Astoria Parks offers enjoyable classes in ballroom and swing dancing, as well as Shape It Up! fitness sessions, tae kwon do and a running and walking club.

The Astoria Aquatic Center also offers a full range of pool and fitness activities for all ages.

Sunset Empire Park & Recreation District

(Gearhart-Seaside-Cannon Beach)

Preschoolers as young as 3 can enjoy the summer offerings South Clatsop County, according to Recreation Specialist Darren Gooch. The recreation district provides KinderSwim camps, Pee Wee soccer and swim lessons for ages 3 to 5. Grade schoolers can spend their days doing themed activities at summer day camps in Cannon Beach, and aspiring surfers and lifeguards can hone their skills in beachfront classes for ages 9 and older.

Swimming lessons and water polo are available for all ages. Look for the district's complete guide to summer activities in late May.

Camp Kiwanilong

For the quintessential summer camp experience, there's Camp Kiwanilong, located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean between Seaside and Astoria. Generations of young people have camped, played, sung, swum and roasted marshmallows around the fire since the 1930s at this rustic outdoor camp.

Kiwanilong's summer youth resident programs are geared toward campers in grades three through eight, though special sessions are offered for first-time campers and older youth. Activities include canoeing, swimming, archery, day hikes, arts and crafts, nature study, fishing, singing and of course, campfires.

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