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As a mom of two young children (ages five and seven) myself, I think it is fair to say most of us are amazed at how much energy those little bodies can spend in a day!

Keeping up with them on a daily basis has definitely boosted my overall health in many ways, especially by increasing my level of physical activity and endurance.

However, taking care of young children can also pose some challenges.  Children are by nature carefree and tend not to fully understand (or care) about the consequences of their actions. As their bodies grow, get heavier, stronger and faster, they can quite easily, and accidentally, injure others. This is true for parents to a certain extent but can be even more of a concern for grandparents.

Here are my three best tips for reducing your risk of injury when making memories this summer with your grandchildren:

1. Choose wisely – The types of games you play with your grandchildren should be ones that are well-suited to your physical abilities and comfort.  For instance, if you have significant knee osteoarthritis, maybe opt for a game of Frisbee or catch versus a soccer game.  Standing relatively still is often better tolerated than the quick changes in direction and impact associated with sports like soccer.  If soccer is their favorite sport, play the goalkeeper (and let them score) to limit the stress on your knee.

2. Pace your activity – That endless energy is wonderful and challenging all at the same time.  It’s important to take rest breaks from physical activities to allow your heart, lungs, muscles and joints to recover throughout the day.  Ideally, switch activities every 20 to 30 minutes; preferably going back and forth between more and less active pastimes.  This variety will reduce the likelihood of getting significantly fatigued. When our bodies get tired, we often lose focus and are at most risk for injuries like joint sprains and muscle strains.

3. Lift safely – If your grandchildren are still in the “lift-hug” or carrying phase, pause before reaching down and scooping them up.  If they are big enough, have them climb up onto the couch or bed to be lifted from a higher height.  Also, from whatever height they are being lifted, try to keep them as close to your body as possible.  These strategies will significantly reduce the strain on your back.

This is just a starter list of the strategies that can be helpful to proactively avoid injury during summer fun with your grandchildren.  There may be other strategies that work well for you based on your health history and past injuries.  The other factor that plays a major role is how well you are maintaining your endurance, strength, balance and mobility.
Watch for my next column, A Fitness Guide to Grand-Parenting, for some tips on what to include in your exercise routine.