The road to fitness can be a lonely one, a lifestyle that is very difficult for a lot of people to start and one that’s easy quit. There are a number of ways to stay motivated, make your journey public, tell friends, share it on social media, anything really that ensures you’re under pressure not to fall off the wagon. Real friends will call you out when you’re not attending bootcamp or making up for that ridiculous meal you had for lunch, plus you motivate others whose sedentary lifestyles are quite frankly depressing.
I think there’s a better way: Keep it in the family! There are so many benefits to working out and living healthy as a family, and I know a lot of you are sitting there thinking, ‘workout with my kids??’ Let me explain.
We all know the benefits of exercise. It can improve our physical and mental health and help expand our social circles. It’s as close to the prevention of illness as we’re likely to get. It’s also the best way to get children to use that boundless energy for personal good rather than public destruction. It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, plus muscle strengthening exercise two days a week. Children and teens need even more exercise: At least 60 minutes each day. Yet, so many leave it to the schools to provide that, and during holidays just lots of eating.
Whatever the reason, parents and children are not taking advantage of the one thing that can reliably make us feel better all around. So, this is a call to time-strapped parents and children to put down their smartphones and get active together. By exercising as a family, you’ll have a built-in support system. When dad is tired after a long day at work, the 12-year-old can remind him that fitness is a family priority. If everyone is working together, the odds of being successful at reaching fitness goals are much greater. Family exercise can also give you a fun shared activity that can continue as kids age into those awkward teen years, the ones when they can’t get far enough away from their ‘embarrassing’ parents.
Beyond the obvious health and physical benefits, it’s a bonding experience. You’re leading by example and imprinting these healthy habits that potentially will last a lifetime. It’s also great one-on-one time. We’re not talking about running a marathon with your 12-year-old next month, trying to keep up with your young football star on the field, or buying a bunch of expensive equipment. You can choose an activity that is fun, inexpensive and (relatively) painless. My father’s a big tennis fan, and growing up he would take me to the tennis club with him where I had lessons, made friend; it was fantastic. I grew up being active and making it your family’s lifestyle is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Here are a few types of exercise that parents can do with their children.
Invest in some bicycles and take the family out, this isn’t something I have to sell. I have a friend that takes his family out every Saturday morning, and he swears by it. It’s great exercise and you can see more when you’re riding than when you’re driving, you can stop and explore things that interest you along the way.
Before taking a child out on the road, make sure he can handle his bike, including stopping and starting reliably. It’s also important for him to have good impulse control. Obviously low traffic and residential areas are recommended.
So simple, so effective. If you sit down to eat together, take a walk together afterwards, even if it’s in down to the end of the road. Schedule particular evenings to walk together, this type of wellness is free.
Children are hard-wired to run, even if it’s just laps around the house in the morning before school. They have lots of energy, and it has to come out. So, if running is your thing, it’s easy to loop them into your exercise program. It’s something they will enjoy and walk away with a sense of accomplishment.
Runnersworld.com suggests using progress charts to keep everyone motivated. Kids can keep track of the miles they’ve logged or how much they’ve improved their time over the course of the month. Parents can turn running into a scavenger hunt, with a map and toys hidden around your running route, to make it fun for kids. Think of how you’ll dominate at the next School Fun Run.
Family classes are more playful than a regular yoga class, and they incorporate games and poses you can do with a partner. Yoga is physically, mentally and emotionally beneficial for all ages. Taking one hour once a week for the family to participate in a class together is not too challenging if you make an effort. The key is to find a class that everyone enjoys, one that is engaging for the kids, but challenging for the adults.
Fitness is ageless and should be enjoyed by the entire family. There are many more activities like zumba/dance classes, basketball or rock climbing that you can all do together. It creates dialogue, keeps everyone looking and feeling healthy, connects mind and body and, most importantly, connects the family.