Exercise is very important for families. Excercise increases life expectancy, lowers heart risks, helps control weight, and improves school performance. It also helps kids burn off energy. Most of all, because inactive children are likely to become inactive adults, making family activities and fitness part of your child’s life at an early age can go a long way toward helping them form healthy habits for life.
As a parent, our job is to make our children see that exercise is fun. When exercise feels like play, the whole family will enjoy it more and be more likely to stick with it.Parents are powerful role models. If you find ways to be more active every day, your kids will follow your lead.
Here are some ways to get started:
Set aside 30 minutes, 3 times a week, to do fun exercises with your kids. Make it a part of your after-school or after-dinner routine. If your kids are young, they might enjoy hopscotch or hide-and-seek. Kick a soccer ball around with older children.
Plan at least 1 family activity every weekend. It can be as simple as going to the playground, or going an all-day hike with your teenager.
A key to getting kids moving is planning time for physical activities. You can find that time by turning off the TV, and keeping TVs out of the kids’ bedrooms. Offer a variety of family activities, both competitive and noncompetitive. Exploring different ways to move their bodies will help children find exercises they enjoy and want to stick with for the long run.
Bike or walk to the grocery store, library, or to your child’s school or sports events. Go for a 30-minute family walk after dinner instead of heading right for the television. Track everyone’s mileage or steps with a pedometer, and try to add more distance every week. Use a family exercise log or colorful stickers to track your progress. Put your log or chart on the refrigerator as a reminder to keep up the good effort together.
Serve up family fitness as well as food at your child’s birthday party by planning active games such as tag or relay races. Older kids might enjoy throwing a dance party.
Any large gathering of kids is also a great opportunity to play a team sport. Just head to a nearby soccer field or basketball court. Other active party ideas include a pool party, in-line or ice skating, or climbing at an indoor rock gym.
At family or holiday gatherings, turn off the TV and take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a short hike at a local park. Get everyone outside for a game of catch or basketball.
Do household chores together as a family. Play music as you clean, take turns choosing favorite songs. Younger children love to help out and can pick up toys or sweep floors while dancing with the broom. Older kids can dust, vacuum, and help make beds.
Enjoy seasonal yard work together. Younger children can help plant and tend a garden. Older kids can rake leaves into a pile (then jump in it). Make snow shoveling fun for all by building a snow fort or creating a family of snow people.