Everyone agrees that physical activity is a great way for a whole family to stay in shape. In times when the experts remind us again and again how important ‘quality time’ with the little ones is, family exercise is a superb way to kill a couple of birds with just one stone.
Family pride in accomplishment
Fitting regular exercise into your family’s daily schedule may seem difficult at first, but the rewards are great. You may acquire a skill, such as tennis; you may take up swimming or weight training, increasing muscle length and decreasing stores of fat. You may even find that your children surpass you in skill with a particular sport, which is always a delightful moment for the child and a simultaneously irritating and proud one for the parent.
Keep the kids active
Studies show that families that are active together have greater trust between members and clearer channels of communication. Sometimes a family bicycle ride can iron out tension better than a family meeting. According to some research, active kids may even perform better in school showing that an active lifestyle can contribute to an active mind too.
And, of course, there’s weight loss
Honestly, it’s hard to think of a time in human history where so much food was available so easily and so cheaply. Other than passing by those delicious, and unfortunately, calorie-laden goodies, exercise is a great way to keep your family from becoming entirely spherical. Keeping to a healthy weight also helps prevent heart disease, high blood pressure and other conditions. You can even reduce the cost of your life insurance quote when you get quotes through a comparison engine.
Let’s talk about age ranges
Healthy babies have all they can do to sit, stand, and roll over; they themselves don’t need more exercise. They still make great companions for parents who are exercising, however. Attach your baby to your body with a baby carrier and set off for a brisk walk. As your infant grows, he or she will also appreciate getting some peeks at the wider world while still safely attached to Mum or Dad.
And the world becomes larger. At the toddling stage, most kids don’t need encouragement to move their bodies. They are learning to jump, run, climb, and explore. Practice these physical activities along with your toddler. If your 18-month-old wants to practice jumping off a step for an hour, do it with her. She will feel very important. Create obstacle courses you and your toddler can practice together. Or, if you feel that your child is too sedentary, create easy games like jump over the sock on the floor or find favoured music to dance to. Rolling a ball on the floor and chasing it on all fours creates strength and encourages hand-eye coordination.
As your child learns to walk, strolls to the corner shop or around the block will help acquaint her with the feel of independent movement and also help her become familiar with her own neighbourhood. Long walks, if you bring the pram along, are the very height of adventure for a new walker.
Children (Ages 4 to 10)
Variety of activity is the key to keeping all family members enjoying exercise. The older the children, the more important it becomes for exercise to be fun.
Parents must provide motivation through example, creativity, and persistence. Physical activity sessions do not need to last longer than 30-45 minutes but should be scheduled on a regular basis. Scheduled activity does not preclude spontaneous exercise, though for example, a quick family dance party if a favourite song comes on the radio.
Everyone should enjoy the sessions, and they should not be rigid or competitive in nature. Good habits of physical activity will last a lifetime. We can teach our children that physical activity does not require a fitness club membership but instead is as simple as leading an active lifestyle. When we combine ‘thinking fit’ with family time, we have accomplished no mean feat given the pace at which so many of us lead our lives.
Nightly after dinner walks
Building a walk into your after-dinner routine ensures that you won’t forget it. Make a game of it as you get to know your neighbourhood: watch for the cat at a neighbour’s window, fly from one block to another, or bring carrier bags and collect discarded rubbish along your route.
Invite the neighbour kids and host dance night. Move the furniture, dock the iPod, grab some flashlights and let the kids dance. It’s a great way for the kids to learn their parents music, and vice versa. They may even learn to dance!
Banish television advertisements and fit in some exercise at the same time. Push-ups, sit-ups, run-in-place – call them by their real names or make up silly names. You can also play leader, taking turns on who calls the shots (“Drop and give me five!”) or play ‘follow the leader,’ in which one person leads the others in clapping, jumping, and marching.
Walks for charity
Be the model for your children in exercise and charitable giving by teaming up with them for fund-raising walks. Ask your children what causes seem most important to them to increase their interest in participating.
Research shows that gardening is as good as weight training when it comes to preventing osteoporosis. Giving your children jobs in the vegetable garden may also help change their attitudes about eating the product of their labours. Once the weather has warmed up, you can eve set up a sprinkler to water the lawn and challenge kids to duck in and out of the droplets.
Older Children (12 and Up)
If they haven’t already, older children can and should learn practical skills like riding a bike and swimming. These ages bring independence and the desire to play team sports like football, rugby, tennis, netball, basketball and diving. You can stay involved in your children’s chosen team sports by organising family sessions on weekends, holidays and evenings. Your tween and teenage children will love the opportunity to teach you how to do something they are learning to do.
As a family, choose to take small vacations that include swimming, biking and walking, like these from the Adventure Company.
Remember: For kids to get excited about exercising, parents have to be excited. Get out and be active with your kids.