Get the Whole Family Moving

Taking family walks, bike rides, and going swimming are just a few of the fun activities that families can do together to keep everyone moving.

Obesity among adults and children is one of the fastest growing problems in the United States. Obesity leads to serious health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, psychological, sociological, and heart disease. The best way to fight obesity in your family is to fight it as a family. Children learn from the example that their parents set and a healthy lifestyle is no different. The best prevention that parents can take for limiting the chances for the development of health problems that are due to a sedentary lifestyle is to get up and get moving. They can serve as strong examples of lessons that will last a lifetime.

Taking family walks, bike rides, and going swimming are just a few of the fun activities that families can do together to keep everyone moving. Outdoor play is an excellent way to encourage movement activities for the whole family. How about a game of touch football, soccer, or volleyball? Outdoor equals active, while indoor encourages inactivity? It is easier to stay active during the summer than it is during the colder parts of the year, at least for those of us who happen to live in climates with cold winters. Some great outdoor activities in the winter can include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or how about building snowmen or snow forts for a family snowball fight? These activities build great family memories and they keep the family moving.

The most difficult factor in keeping the family moving is that it cannot turn into a chore, or work. Try to keep the word “exercise” out of the vocabulary. Activity should be associated with fun and play time, not work. Routine is often associated with a “workout” and a commitment to regular fitness activities. However, when it comes to family activities, particularly those that involve kids, routine quickly becomes boring and enthusiasm soon diminishes. One of the most important rules for family fitness is to keep it fun, which means varying the activities every week. Trying something new is the key. My family played disc golf for the first time last weekend. Everyone had fun, got the exercise of throwing the Frisbee, walking the course and laughing with each other.

Letting the children take turns at choosing the activity is an excellent way to keep them motivated and excited. Trips to the zoo, park, or playing miniature golf all involve walking, so don’t pass these off as non-exercise. They beat sitting at home and playing video games. Setting aside a particular day of the week for family fun, such as Sunday afternoons, gives everyone something to look forward to and dedicated time to focus on the family.

Family-centered time and activities are important, but if the goal is to get your family moving, don’t pass up opportunities to get together with other kids and adults in the community. Encouraging neighborhood games of capture the flag or kickball will make exercise seem like play time, and afterall, that is what we want to encourage. Having picnics in the park, followed by fun movement activities with other families will make exercise a cultural element of the neighborhood and one that children will take with them into adulthood.

Bringing kids up in a community that encourages fitness and wellness is the best way to encourage healthy lifestyles and to set the stage for curbing the growing problem of Obesity in the United States. Kids have to think of exercise as something that is just as important as brushing and flossing their teeth. The only way to change the problem of obesity is to change the stereotypes and thoughts that surround exercise and fitness. We can do this in our kids, but first, we have to let go of our own idea that exercise is work. We have to learn to enjoy movement and have fun with it ourselves.

Incorporating movement activities into the week will have many positive benefits, many of which will be noticed by everyone immediately. Exercise can boost one’s energy level, a change that is felt almost immediately. Exercise can reduce stress and depression. We already know that in the long term, regular exercise can improve balance, coordination, flexibility, circulation, strengthens the heart, lungs, bones, and muscles. It will also help you to sleep better at night. Exercise is so good for you and your children in every way. Most experts agree that everyone needs at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise everyday in order to see these benefits. The trap that you need to avoid is that if you cannot do it all, some is better than none. Sixty minutes everyday is something to strive for, but if you don’t reach that at first, just do what you can.

Family activities that involve movement are more than time to exercise. They are time to talk, get to know each other, ask each other about their week. They are time to bond as a family, as well as to encourage activities that are part of a healthy lifestyle. The most important tool that you have in getting your family moving is the power button on the remote. Press it once and when the screen turns black, you have taken the most important step to developing a healthy lifestyle for yourself and for your family.

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