Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for a host of chronic diseases. Physically inactive children are more likely to be overweight or obese, and they are more likely to be overweight and obese adults. Children learn and copy habits from their parents. If their parents read, they are more likely to read; if their parents eat healthy, they are more likely to eat healthy; and if their parents are physically active, they will be physically active.
The American Heart Association recommends children and adults participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week. Benefits of this level of physical activity include improved academic performance, reduced levels of stress, reduced risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and improved cholesterol levels, psychological well-being, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
Making physical activity a family event allows you, the parent, to multi-task. You can get the exercise you need, make sure your children are getting the exercise they need, and spend quality time together as a family. To make family fitness a success, make sure to select age-appropriate activities - keep it simple and fun for everyone. Make family fitness a family tradition that everyone looks forward to.
One of the simplest ways to exercise as a family is to go for a walk together after dinner. You can use this time as a family to talk about your day. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that everyone walk or run 10,000 steps each day. Basic pedometers are inexpensive. Many can be purchased for less than $10. Buy one for each member of your family. Encourage everyone to wear the pedometer for a day and compare the results. Have children practice math skills to determine how far off the family is from the recommended 10,000 steps a day. As a family, discuss ways to increase the number of steps walked per day such as taking the stairs instead of elevators and escalators or parking further away from your destination.
Other ideas to increase physical activity as a family include playing frisbee or catch, having a playful family soccer match at the local park, hiking, and bike riding. Indoor activities could include running in place or doing jumping jacks during commercials while watching TV or dancing in the living room to your child's favorite CD.
Families that get active together are happier and healthier. The key is just to get out there, get moving, and have fun!