Physical Activity for the Whole Family
From the 1960s to the 1990s, childhood obesity increased from nearly 5% to 15% – and parents today are understandably concerned about their children’s level of physical activity. In 2012, the typical child spends more time in front of the television or computer than they do moving. The Center for Disease Control states that more then 33% of adults and 17% of youth are obese. And the fact that the average child watches approximately four to seven hours of TV a day isn’t helping.
Learning good health behaviors starts at home, so here are six ways you can incorporate physical activity into your family’s weekly schedule. And as an added benefit, these activities will help you get more active along with your children, too.
1. Family tourism
Be tourists in your own city. Instead of driving around to see the sites, go on a walking tour. Have each family member pick an activity they’ve always wanted to do, or a location in your hometown they’ve always wanted to visit. Schedule a “family tourist” day and walk to all the activities or locations on the list. If you can’t get through the list in one day, have a “family tourist” day once a week or month. Slowly work through all the places on the list and keep adding more once you’re done.
2. Try something new
Learn a new sport or take an interest in the sports your children already participate in. Don’t just encourage your kids to learn a new sport – learn it with them. That way both you and your child will enjoy the benefits of physical activity, along with other bonuses.
One, you get to bond over learning a new sport together. Two, learning a new activity is great for the brain. In the summer, try sports such as tennis or soccer that will challenge your hand-eye coordination. In the winter, try sports such as snowboarding or skating that will challenge your balance.
Don’t just sit and watch your kids play sports – get involved yourself! If your child plays baseball, ask her to play catch after dinner. That way your child gets practice in-between games, you get time together, and you both get active.
3. Mirror healthy behavior
Don’t be a hypocrite and encourage your kids to be healthy while making bad lifestyle decisions for yourself and your partner or spouse. Set a good example. After all, children tend to mirror your behavior, good or bad. Go on active dates with your partner or spouse, participate in regular physical activity, eat well and try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern.
4. Limit screen time
Place a limit on how much television your kids can watch, or how much time they can spend on the computer. Try to encourage them to replace the time they would’ve spent in front of a screen with more active choices. For example, instead of talking with their friends on Facebook, encourage them to go in the backyard and socialize with their friends while kicking a soccer ball around. Screen time doesn’t have to be replaced with working out or intense physical activity. Even something like ping pong or cards is more active then lying on the sofa watching television. More active pursuits will also hopefully mitigate mindless snacking.
5. Pay attention to nutrition
Becoming more active is only half the battle. Good nutrition will give your child the energy he or she needs to stay alert and productive throughout the day. As an added bonus, establishing healthy habits for your children when they’re young will help them maintain healthy habits throughout their life. Again, try to mirror healthy behavior. If you’re constantly criticizing your children for eating too much candy but then eat two helpings of dinner and dessert, you send mixed messages. Encourage vegetables and fruit as healthy snacks, and limit sugar and processed foods.
6. Family pet
A family dog can be a great way to make the entire family more active, especially if everyone shares responsibility for its care. For example, spend time bonding with your child while walking the dog. Or encourage your child to go outside and play with the dog instead of watching television.
In summary, it’s most important to find ways to make being active fun. Whether it’s a sport or regular walks with the dog, help your children develop a positive relationship with physical activity and they’ll carry those habits with them throughout their life.