Your Health: Eight ways for parents to promote better family fitness
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Before our lives were so high-tech, family members were more physically active and got plenty of exercise naturally.
Today, we typically go everywhere by car and sit for hours in front of a computer or TV screen. This sedentary lifestyle has been tied to obesity and a slew of related health problems ranging from diabetes to depression.
Research reports that children who are consistently more active are likely to be healthier adults. The October Wellness Theme of the Month for B-FIT, a physical activity program that has been implemented in the TTUSD elementary schools, is Family Fitness.
One of the biggest obstacles to bringing fitness into your family life can be lack of ideas. Just like our kids, we inevitably get hit with the question, “What should we do?”
The first secret to making family fitness work is to grab little moments and sneak activity in. The second secret is to streamline things so you can quickly move from planning to doing. Thirdly, you want to spend some time getting inspired for activity.
Try to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity most days of the week.
So, how can you get your family moving in a way that’s fun and doesn’t feel like a punishment? Here are some easy ways to make it fun, teach your children about the importance of physical activity and build a strong family connection.
1: Have each family member pick an exercise at the beginning of the week and do as many reps as they can. Then train throughout the week with the goal of improving by the weekend. The family member who has the highest percentage increase is rewarded with something small (but motivating). Keep the focus on the fact that everyone is improving.
2: Designate one evening as family fitness night. Each week, a different person designs the family workout that you will all do together. Whether it’s swimming, rollerblading, walking, disc golf, or a two-on-two basketball game — everyone gets to do something they enjoy, and your workout will never become dull.
3: Buy small pieces of equipment to keep around the house. Then make some fitness rules: Exercise during commercials every time you watch TV; stretch before bed each night. Purchase a few inexpensive items (jump rope, resistance bands, stability ball, dumbbells) and rotate them through the house on a daily basis. Treat them as scavenger hunt finds — if you find the jump rope placed in the garage, you have to use it for one minute. Next time you may find it on the porch, or in the basement.
4: Turn birthdays into an active adventure. Make your presents for birthdays related to activities. Plan a family ski or snow-tubing day trip. A bike makes a great gift for every family member, as does a basketball hoop in the driveway and a badminton net in the backyard. Make sure that Mom and Dad are included in the bike rides and pick-up games, too.
5: Get to the playground. Muscle-strengthening exercise doesn’t mean just weightlifting. Take the kids to the playground to swing on the bars, climb a tree, or play tug-of-war.
6: Expand your FUN. Learn a new activity, take a class together, such as martial arts, dance, Zumba or yoga.
7: Walk the dog. Treat your dog to daily walks that include the entire family.
8: Plant a garden. Whether you choose fruit and vegetables or just some pretty flowers, get the kids involved in an organic gardening project. They’ll get some brisk exercise digging, planting, and weeding. Then the whole family can enjoy the fruits of their labor with fresh produce or cut flowers.
So if we all need some fitness, why not log some of those minutes as a family? You get a double whammy of benefit: you’re fulfilling your exercise needs, and you’re getting some together time as well! But most of all, it’s fun for everyone!
Wendy Buchanan, MS, works in Tahoe Forest Health System’s Wellness Neighborhood, promoting “Rethink Healthy.” If you are interested in the B-FIT program and would like to learn more, please contact Maria Martin at email@example.com or 530-587-3769.