Fitness for Families
Article courtesy of Healthwell.com
The key to helping both you and your children adopt a healthy lifestyle is making fitness a family affair. Children who early on learn to "play" together with their families take these healthy habits - and the fond memories that accompany them - into their adult lives. Children brought up to be fit are more likely to stay fit as adults. Good nutrition and physical activity go hand in hand toward developing healthful habits that last a lifetime. Both kids and adults suffer from the consequences of inactivity. As a society, we're becoming more sedentary, and therefore people are more obese and susceptible to conditions such as heart ailments and diabetes.
The rewards of exercise are numerous. Along with increasing stamina and muscle strength, exercise helps improve motor coordination, dexterity, balance and flexibility. In addition, physical activity prevents bone loss, decreases the risk of some cancers and lowers the risk of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. The psychological benefits are equally impressive. Participation in organized activities teaches valuable lessons about discipline and sportsmanship. Being physically active boosts self-esteem and improves mood. Teenagers who feel good about themselves are less likely to have problems with drugs, gangs and alcohol. Adolescent girls and young women, who have a high risk of developing eating disorders, benefit from improved body image when they are active.
As the primary teachers and role models, parents need to set an example by devoting at least 30 minutes a day to a physical activity. Getting exercise doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. It doesn't have to mean playing an organized sport, either. Simple activities like walking the dog, washing the car, mowing the lawn, gardening or walking the kids to school are all healthful.
Schedule regular times throughout the week for physical activity and stick with them. In the summer, take a brisk evening walk, squeeze in an informal game of softball or visit a pick-your-own organic fruit farm. In the winter, when getting motivated is invariably more difficult, schedule a night or a weekend afternoon at the local YMCA or community center, where families can swim, play racket sports or take advantage of classes or activities planned by the center. Many Y's and fitness clubs provide special family fitness programs, such as parent-child exercise programs or supervised events for kids while parents are working out.
Take turns selecting activities. This way, each family member takes responsibility for creating a fun time together. Be sure to encourage and support your children's choices. One way to do this is to give a reward each week for the most creative activity choice.
Start a log of daily fitness activities to keep your family on track and as a positive reminder of how active you've been.
Remember that children typically don't have the stamina - or the attention span - of adults. To keep your kids committed, plan activities that are fun and not too intense or mentally demanding. Don't forget that you must adapt to the kids, not vice versa. If you're a real fitness buff, you'll probably need to do your own workouts before or after family activities. Walking to the park and throwing a ball or a Frisbee are easy ways to play together. Activities that require a bit more time but can be enjoyed by almost every family member include fundraising or nature walks, fun runs, hiking, biking and swimming.
Invest in supportive, comfortable sneakers. Nothing discourages activity like sore and uncomfortable feet.
Regardless of how, when and where you choose to incorporate exercise into your family life, it's important to get your family started. And remember, if you make excuses like "too busy," "too tired" or "just don't feel like it," you can be sure your children will pass those same words along to their kids someday.