The Family Fitness Habit
We’ve always been the play-outside type of people, and we homeschool so my kids aren’t sitting in desks for hours a day. So it’s not that difficult to make sure kids get plenty of physical activity.
Still though, I don’t take that tendency for granted. There’s no way around it – we need to be intentional about getting out and active. According to the CDC, 17% or 12.7 million children ages 2-19 are obese, and 34.9% or 78.6 million adults are obese.
That’s a lot.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends a full hour of physical activity per day for children.
That sounds like a lot.
I don’t want to fall into the trap of assuming we get enough physical activity in our days. When there’s this much at stake, we prioritize it.
But it doesn’t have to feel like a chore, a line-item to check off of our lists. Physical activity is our favorite time together that we all look forward to.
First thing first – come up with a few activities that your family would actually have fun doing together, and decide which days you’ll give them a go. Then, keep these tips in mind to make it easy to get all the playtime your family needs.
Let’s make this easy on ourselves. When kids are young, they want to play with their parents, and they want to be outside whether it’s cool and sunny or cold with a foot of snow on the ground.
Take advantage of this willingness and start a family fitness habit that will last. If we lace up the sneaks and get outside with some consistency, it becomes something we just do, not something we spend time and energy deciding to do, or talking the family into doing. You’ll just go.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Be an example
Give a two-year-old a toy smartphone. What does he do with it? I know my little guy will lift it to his ear almost immediately.
“Hiyo…oh tay…uhvoo bye.”
Then he’ll tap and swipe as if perusing Feedly.
Kids are hardwired to imitate their parents. We overhear them spouting our catch phrases when playing house. If they find a whisk and a pot they’ll vigorously stir their invisible pancake batter. They love to sit in the driver’s seat and vruuuhhmmm while turning the steering wheel of a vehicle with no keys.
They don’t readily admit it, but kids imitate us longer than we think. For better or for worse, we’re a reference point. They start out repeating what they see, and later in life they’ll decide whether to keep repeating or go their own way.
It’s our job to show them good examples of healthy habits and positive experiences, and we can only hope it becomes a part of them.
Involve kids in exercise that looks like exercise
Especially when our kids are little, how many of us feel guilty for having “me” time?
Let’s look at that from the other side. What if our kids never saw us taking care of ourselves, then grew up to not prioritize their own health as a result?
IMO, that’s a bigger source of guilt.
We want to show kids that we as parents invest in our own health. We can bring kids to the childcare room at the gym or have them cheer us on while we run a 5K. We want our kids to see us make an intentional effort to get stronger and improve ourselves every day.
Involve kids in exercise that looks like play
This one is easier, and much more fun 🙂
Playing with our children is fun for us and fun for them. Everyone gets fresh air and gets moving, all while we’re making memories.
We don’t need to take up distance running and drill sergeant our kids through age inappropriate training. Active play can be a short flat scenic hike, or games of tag in a field. We can swim, ride bikes, spin around the ice rink, kick a soccer ball around, or just take a relaxing walk around the neighborhood.
Our goal is to show our kids so many active, fun play options that they don’t even bring up video games during free time.
Ah, dreams. Someday…
Let them pick
Kids like to have a say in things. If you want to get out but aren’t sure what to do, kids will have plenty of suggestions. When everyone in the family takes a turn choosing the activity every now and then, they feel like part of the team rather than the underling, and they’ll be more eager to join in the fun.
Creating a family fitness habit could be one of the most important things you do to keep your children and yourselves well for a lifetime.
Let’s swap some ideas. What does your family like to do together for fun and fitness?