Helping your family move more and sit less is a powerful act of love. A lifelong habit of physical activity will create healthier and happier families, and may even expand your longevity. What better gift to share with the ones you love? We need some parents who have a passion to raise a healthy generation and to be better parents than they are attorneys, doctors, pilots, teachers or salesmen or women. Aren’t relationships more important than money and tasks? Are they?
There may be some among you silently thinking “What can you do when the people you love the most seem stuck in a pattern of sedentary living?” Maybe you’d like to be more active, too? It can be tough to stick with a fitness routine when you’re the only physically active person in your household. How can you help your family build a healthy, active and happier lifestyle?
Focus on fun.
When you love somebody, you want the best for him or her, including the best of health. Despite your good intentions, your kids and spouse may or may not be interested or ready to become more physically active. Although being physically active should be prioritized, feasible and enjoyable, nagging can push people in the opposite direction. However, families need to learn that being active is much more fun and rewarding than sitting in front of a computer or TV screen.
How can you appeal to their sense of adventure instead and look for fun ways to be active as a family? Should you have a dance party with your kids? Turn up the music and dance to their favorite song? What about going to the playground, swimming, bowling, hiking, or bird-watching? You can also make physical activity fun by incorporating music, games, or competition. Make it fun and it will surprise you how much they will want to participate.
Water play: On hot days, set up a water play area in your backyard with sprinklers, water guns, and water balloons. Let them help you wash your car. This can be a great way for kids to stay cool while staying active.
Share The Benefits of Being Active.
Helping kids become more active is much easier when both adults are on the same page. Sit down with your spouse or partner and share the reasons why you want your family to spend more time moving and less time sitting around, which may include:
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, overweight, obesity, and stroke for both kids and parents.
- More energy and endurance to do fun, active things together as a family, such as travelling, hiking, bicycling, or camping.
- Helping your children and teens develop a lifelong habit of physical activity for optimal well-being.
- It will also help them to develop a positive body image and is beneficial to their growth and development.
- Fostering good brain health. Studies show that regular exercise optimizes conditions within the brain for learning, concentration, and critical thinking. It’s a natural mood elevator and has shown to prevent dementia and other age-related declines of brain function.
Encourage Active Play.
Adults and children alike benefit from active play and unstructured time for recreation, discovery, and enjoyment. Whether or not you have a lawn, provide equipment and resources, such as balls, jump ropes, badminton racquets, hula hoop, frisbees or playground equipment like the trampoline and bikes to encourage movement. If you don’t have outdoor space to play at home, take your gear to a local park, school, or community center or stadium for some family fun.
Make physical activity a family activity by going on hikes, bike rides, swimming or playing group sports together. Provide opportunities for free play and imaginative movement such as dance parties, hide and seek, tag games, obstacle courses, and treasure hunt. You may also want to piece together bouts of exercise. Remember that any movement is better than no movement at all.
Go on nature walks: Take kids on a nature walk and encourage them to explore the outdoors. This can be a great way to get them moving and to teach them about nature. Ask them to look out for bugs, insects, trees, flowers as they commune with nature. Get them a pet. Pets improve our mood, so does exercise. The good news is that you don’t need a fancy gymnasium or organized sports to get kids active. Be creative.
Limit Screen Time.
Prolonged screen time has been linked to an increased risk of developing serious medical problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, even if exercise is involved. Most of our children have television sets in their bedrooms. Don’t your kids have smart phones as well? How many hours do your kids spend in front of the screen? Schools too, tend to focus a lot more on the academics and very little towards sports and the physical wellbeing of their learners.
Experts recommend limiting screen time to 2 hours a day or less outside of work or homework; and that applies to grown-ups too. In our home, our kids only watch television on the weekends, after participation in physical activity of course. We had to set some rules. Get them a coach for their favorite sport if you can and build a future Olympian. Maybe, all parents need to take a non-negotiable stand. Taking a shower is not optional, why should regular exercise be?
Be A Good Example.
Set a good example for your family by limiting your own screen time and becoming as active as possible. Parents are powerful role models. Chances are that when your kids see you having fun working out, they’ll want to join you. The reality is that some of us parents, spend even more times on our phones and gadgets than our kids do. How then do we help our kids to stay active?
Be healthy and positive for your children. Set a good example by prioritizing physical activity and leading an active lifestyle. Set achievable goals and celebrate progress and milestones. Also don’t forget to teach and to involve them in the house chores. Guide them to embrace healthy nutritional behaviors as well. Encourage children to participate in organized sports or physical activities at school or in the community. Enroll your kids for group sports like soccer, swimming, tennis and provide positive reinforcement and praise for physical activity and healthy habits. Physical fitness is not reserved for adults and must be promoted to kids from an early age. Together we can all build healthy families.