Between school, work, activities and everything else that is piled into your family’s weekly schedule, it can be hard to imagine adding anything extra. But daily physical activity is important, and with a little planning, it can become a fun part of your family’s routine. Check out these tips and fun ideas to get started.
The Importance of Family Fitness
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity affects one in every five children and adolescents, and obesity-related conditions such as heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of death in adults. Routine physical activity can begin to address these issues. Physical activity helps you build strong bones and lean muscle and can reduce your risk factors for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke. Exercise can also promote good mental health and may help to reduce anxiety and depression.
Tips for Getting Your Family Started
According to experts, children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day and adults should aim for 30 minutes every day. If that seems a bit overwhelming, read below for some tips on getting started:
- Model a positive relationship with physical activity. If your family knows it’s important to you, it’s more likely they’ll make it a priority too.
- Try to set limits on screen time—for adults and children. If given the choice, people of all ages may sit in front of a screen for hours, but when that’s not an option, your kids (and you) may gravitate toward outdoor or more active activities.
Daily physical activity is important, and with a little planning, it can become a fun part of your family’s routine.
- Explain why physical activity matters. If you have a family history of diabetes or heart disease, this may be the time to share it with your kids. Talk to them about how physical fitness has rewards throughout life.
- Schedule set times for physical activities. Before the week gets crazy-busy, try to identify a few small timeslots that your family can dedicate to family fitness time, like taking a walk or playing an active game, and make it a part of your family’s calendar.
- Set goals that everyone can achieve together. Instead of “Let’s be more active,” make specific goals, such as “Let’s take two family walks this week after dinner.” You can also set challenges like, “Who will be the first one to reach two miles this week or reach 100 active minutes?” As you track your goals, be sure to celebrate your successes.
- Don’t beat yourselves up. If something comes up or if someone gets sick, don’t throw it all out the window. Try to move things around until you are back on track.
- Ask other families to get involved. Kids might have more fun on a family hike if other kids are involved. Or see if your neighbors want to compete in an informal weekly game of soccer.
- Use community resources in your area, such as schools, YMCAs, churches and parks and recreation services, to find local events. Sign up for a run, walk or field day to motivate your family.
- Make fitness a part of your celebrations. Before the family BBQ, play a round of Frisbee or volleyball. Check out garage sales, the Internet and used sporting goods stores to stock up on inexpensive equipment.
- Shift your mindset. Some of us are programmed to come home after a long day and go directly to the couch. See if you can break that cycle by scheduling an after-dinner walk or a quick game of tag or basketball.
- Think about ways to encourage activity. When you buy new toys, think about purchasing jump ropes, balls, kites, hula hoops and more.
Fun Ways to Get Your Family Moving
Check out these fun ideas for your family’s next activity:
- Play games in the yard, such as tag, kickball, jump roping competitions, hula hoop contests and more.
- Have a dance party or a dance challenge after dinner once a week. If you have a video game for learning new dance moves, that works too.
- Take a family walk, hike or bike ride. If you can’t do it all together, get creative. You could do mother-daughter walks, sibling rides or whatever combinations work best in your family.
- Assign an active chore to everyone in the family such as taking out the trash and recycling, vacuuming, raking, shoveling snow, pulling weeds and more.
- Set up outdoor stations to encourage your kids to stay active—an obstacle course out of things sitting around the yard, a challenge or competition, or a scavenger hunt.
- Plan something active for your next outing. It could be bowling, miniature golf, ice skating or the batting cages.
- Decide on an event to do together. Search your local area for a fun run or a charity walk you can achieve together.
- Play different sports in your yard or at the park, like catch, football, basketball or badminton.
- Check out what’s going on in your local area. You may find a free family fitness class or a group that meets up for hikes or bike rides.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers Move Your Way, a series of tools, videos and fact sheets to make it easier for families to get a little more active.
- The CDC provides a wealth of information and tools to help fight obesity, encourage physical activity and develop healthy habits.
- We Can! is a program from the National Institutes of Health designed to give parents, caregivers and communities a way to help children maintain a healthy weight. It includes several parent tip sheets, materials for children and much more.
Remember, even small changes in your family’s routine can have a big impact on your overall health!