Longer days and warmer temps create great incentives for getting everyone in the family more active. Let springtime be the time to step it up. No FitBit required!
Why a family focus? For one thing, the buddy system has always proven helpful for motivation. Plus, like anything else, kids measure what they see against what they hear. Jodi Knepper, writing for Faith and Fitness magazine, in an article titled, “What Happens When Parents and Children Exercise Together,” lends insight into the family dimension of fitness. She quotes Joann Donnelly, Director of Total Health for the YMCA of Greater Houston, who suggests that “Not exercising sends a message to kids that it’s not important. But when parents and kids are active together, it gives them a common sense of purpose and a goal,” adding that “Exercise benefits both of them in mind, body, and spirit.”
Knepper also notes that “A generation or two ago, kids would walk, run, or bike home from school where they were greeted with Mom’s ‘Now, go outside and play—I don’t want to see you until dinnertime,” noting that our world isn’t as safe it used to be, and playing outside unsupervised isn’t always wise. She adds, “Parents have to be involved. The best way to give our sedentary culture a makeover is by starting within the family—by exercising together.”
None of us will—or should--move from couch potato to marathon runner overnight. Relatively small moves can get things rolling in a positive direction and can result in more than just physical benefits. In the online Parents magazine article, “10 Ways to Exercise as a Family,” reporter Aviva Patz notes that “As a bonus, exercise with family does double duty as quality time -- no small consideration given our jam-packed schedules.” The ideas she lists include taking pre- or post-dinner walks, moving the furniture out of the way and dancing to kids’ favorite tunes, and having a weekly sports night. They also include the time-honored necessities of dog-walking and yard work.
According to the Kids Health article “Kids and Exercise,” significant benefits of being active include stronger muscles and bones, leaner bodies, decreased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a better overall outlook on life.
Again, “Do as I say, not as I do” is always a less-than-ideal parenting approach, including when it comes to fitness. Knepper cites Dr. J. Ron Eaker, M.D., author of the book Fat-Proof Your Family, who says that “exercising with children reprograms kids to understand what is normal and what is not. Kids today believe that a sedentary lifestyle is normal.” He adds that hours spent doing sedentary activity produce a “skewed perception of ‘normal.’”
Even screen time can be “get moving” time. For example, in one episode of the preschool series Charlie & Company, Lily Longlegs gets kids moving around and reviewing counting skills at the same time!
Show kids that getting off the couch is fun by showing others having fun and by also sharing in the fun.