Take a Walk in the Park - Fitness Strategies for the Whole Family

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Fitness and fun for the whole family! Take a walk in the park with Dr. William Feldner of Forest Park Hospital as we discuss fun ways to improve your family's health through fitness.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to St. Louis Live Events. Our guest today is William F. Feldner, DO, FAOASM. Dr. Feldner practices "traditional" family medicine with an emphasis on sports medicine. We'll be talking about fun ways to improve your family's health through fitness.

Welcome, Dr. Feldner. Thanks for joining us today. It's not a good day for a walk in the park in St. Louis, is it?

Dr. Feldner: We have rain, thunder, and lightning right now. Not a good day. It's actually a good point -- bad weather can interfere with exercise of all forms. It can also be very dangerous to be on a walk and get caught in a lightning storm. Good safety should come first!

Moderator: But normally, St. Louis is a great place to go for a walk.

Dr. Feldner: Yes, there are many great places of all types, all around St. Louis. There are natural (unpaved) paths in parks, in wooded areas, there are paved paths, some with hills and some fairly flat. Whatever interests you is generally available.

Moderator: Why is family fitness so important?

Dr. Feldner: A recent study by the Missouri Department of Health shows a 78 percent INCREASE in the number of overweight people in the state of Missouri. Being active and maintaining fitness is very important in reducing this number, but more importantly, for overall health. There are significant health risks and related health problems from being overweight.

Moderator: What kind of fitness activities can you recommend for families with young children?

Dr. Feldner: The easiest is simply walking. There are a number of ways to do this. You only need to let your imagination work for you. We have a fantastic zoo in St. Louis and it's FREE. They have numerous children's activities and there is plenty of room for walking. There are tons of parks with walking paths. It's actually fairly easy to incorporate physical activity with children, since they love to play and be active (at least mine do!). Sometimes it's just as easy to simply play with your children.

Moderator: When my children were little, we used to go for a daily walk, imagining that we were somewhere else, a jungle, the forest, the moon, anywhere. That was a lot of fun. Other times we would try to find different plants or animals. Can you talk about the benefits of walking, in the park or around the neighborhood, as an exercise activity?

Dr. Feldner: Walking is good exercise. The benefits of exercise and health are well known. The great thing about walking is it's so easy to do. You can simply walk around the block, you can walk at the mall, you can walk just about anywhere at any time. You just need to get out and do it.

Moderator: Once the children are older, school-age and teenagers, do you have ideas for family fitness? Is it still important to combine family with fitness activities?

Dr. Feldner: Yes, it is important to maintain fitness activities, not only for health benefits, but for family bonding as well. Older children and adolescents may be more into team sports or more of a particular sporting activity such as tennis, or racquetball. Stay involved with your children any way you can.

tenuli_WebMD: My husband has asthma. What kind of fitness activities can my family do that he can participate in?

Dr. Feldner: Excellent question. It's a little difficult to answer specifically, because I don't know your husband or the status of his asthma. In general, first thing is making sure the asthma (or any illness) is under adequate control and supervised by a physician. Secondly, depending on the particular ailment, there may be particular activities that are better suited to an individual. With asthma, high-intensity anaerobic activities will cause more problems where lower intensity, sustained activities may be better. Also with asthma, the climate is very important. Cold, dry air is much less favorable than warm moist air. Many people with asthma seem to do very well with swimming. Walking is also good, depending on the level of exercise and the climate. But, maintaining fitness will actually help control the asthma.

tenuli_WebMD: Can a sports medicine doctor help design a fitness program that would be safe for an asthmatic to do?

Dr. Feldner: Yes, most certainly. One thing to check though, is it a primary care sports medicine doctor (as opposed to an orthopedic surgeon), and are they adequately trained and credentialed (as any other type of physician you would see).

picksie_WebMD: Are there any fitness clubs or rec areas in St. Louis that have family sports activities?

Dr. Feldner: I don't know of any specific ones other than YMCA. I do know many municipalities have summer programs for family activates. I'm sure there are many around. I would check with your city's parks and recreation department. There are also many different sports leagues (baseball, softball, volleyball) and many of these may be family oriented.

Moderator: Do hospitals sometimes offer fitness programs? Might insurance cover some of those?

Dr. Feldner: Good point! Most insurance companies now recognize the importance of fitness in preventing disease. Many of them offer some type of program. One I know of offers partial reimbursement for joining a health club, while others offer discounted rates. Some actually have their own programs. Call your insurance customer service department or your local hospital to see what they offer.

Moderator: What are some of the more common injuries people suffer when trying to start a fitness program? How can they be avoided?

Dr. Feldner: Mostly, when starting out, people tend to overdo things. Start slow, and as you feel comfortable, gradually increase your activity. Most injuries are overuse (sore muscles, tendonitis) and can be avoided by stretching before the activity, and icing any painful or sore areas after the activity. It's always important to see your physician PRIOR to starting an exercise program, especially if you've been sedentary or have any health problems.

Moderator: What role does diet play in a family fitness program?

Dr. Feldner: A good diet is always important regardless of exercise. Of, course the benefits of combining both a proper diet and exercise are exponential. In other words, you should do both!

tenuli_WebMD: Thank you, Dr. Feldner. By the way, what is a DO?

Dr. Feldner: DO stands for Doctor of Osteopathy. We basically have the same medical training as MD's but we have a holistic approach to treating patients. There is some great and more detailed information at the American Osteopathic Association web site at www.aoa-net.org

Moderator: Can you please summarize the keys points of putting together a fun family fitness program?

Dr. Feldner: Sure.

1. Do something fun and enjoyable.

2. Try different things, different activities, or different walking paths.

3. Try to do something regularly.

4. Be safe in your activities.

5. Incorporate a healthy diet.

Moderator: We are almost out of time. Dr. Feldner, do you have any final comments for our members?

Dr. Feldner: Thanks for the time and to those who participated. I've enjoyed it and hope people have learned something and that we've helped a few people to get on their way to a more healthy lifestyle.

Moderator: Thank you, Dr. Feldner, for joining us today. You've been great. We would love to have you back again.

Dr. Feldner: Thanks, I would be happy to come back.

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