The ‘Mary Poppins’ workout

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer

It must be the warm breezes wafting through our airspace this week that have me thinking about a revered childhood memory, the joys of kite-flying. One of my favorite Disney classics is “Mary Poppins,” a beautiful blend of magical wonder and spiritual fortitude. When Mr. Banks finally realizes that he has been spending too much time at work and not enough quality time with his family, the kite-flying scene is a wonderful physical expression of his new awareness. 

While Mary Poppins, Bert the Chimney Sweep, and the entire Banks family spent an exhilarating day in the park, singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” little did they know what a good workout was accompanying their long-awaited adventure in the park. Indeed, flying a kite is a wonderful low-impact exercise that targets not only the core, but also the muscles in the shoulders, chest, back, arms and abs.  

Since keeping a kite airborne requires a continuous series of tugs and pulls, often while running to catch the wind, the heart rate will certainly become elevated during the process. If the wind is particularly strong, scapular stability will be required, especially on the side of the body where the kite is actually flying. Maintaining control and stabilization of the kite during such conditions will enhance core strength and balance. This activity can also be a fabulous and fun way to improve hand-eye coordination. Maintaining focus on a continuously moving kite enhances vision and strengthens eye muscles.

There’s an old Chinese saying that reminds us of health benefits that transcend the body and enter one’s spirit: “Those who fly a kite can have a long life.” Scholars interpret this to mean that frequent bouts of kite flying can lead to longevity. While gazing up at a clear azure sky and observing your kite flying and soaring and dipping as it catches the breeze, the concentrated yet relaxed mind strengthens the regulating function of higher nervous activity. The Chinese feel that this can boost the health of the body and internal organs. Focusing your eyes on a kite flying among white clouds may actually serve a similar purpose as that of health-preserving qigong, which is aligned in traditional Chinese medicine with the cultivation of one’s mind. 

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Once spring has officially arrived, take the family to a local craft store and purchase a colorful kite. Head to the park, hike up the highest hill and unravel the white string as you run to catch the wind. Returning to your childhood days has never felt more exhilarating.