Commit to be fit: family fitness for a new year
Being active together is a good way to achieve family fitness while carving out quality time.
It’s the time again when many of us are reflecting on the past year and the changes we want to make as we forge ahead.
One of the most common goals that I hear is the desire to be more physically active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days, and that children get one hour each day. Benefits of regular exercise include reducing risk for chronic diseases, helping control weight and helping boost school performance.
With the challenges of a busy career and family obligations, that goal can seem impossible. Finding ways of being active together might be the perfect solution by combining living healthy with quality family time.
1. Talk it over as a family.
Discuss what types of activities everyone likes and make a plan that includes something for everyone. Aim for things that are fun, readily available and easily included in daily life. Examples for outdoors could be playing in the backyard or playground with a ball or Frisbee, roller skating, flying a kite or riding bikes. When the weather is bad, try dancing to music, skipping rope in the garage or swimming at an indoor pool.
2. Start healthy habits.
Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. Making family activities and fitness part of your child’s life at an early age can go a long way toward helping them form healthy habits for life. Walking for 30 minutes after dinner as a family is a great option to consider. Try keeping a calendar on the refrigerator and let the children use stickers to mark off the days you walk together. An added benefit: quality down time, especially if you make it a cellphone-free time.
3. Plan active family events.
Keep searching for ways to include physical activity in everything you do. At your child’s next birthday party, choose active games such as tag, hula hooping or dancing. At family or holiday gatherings, turn off the TV and take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a short hike at a park. When planning a vacation, include active pursuits such as a nature walk, an architecture tour or bike riding.
Adopting new behaviors and making them a permanent part of your lifestyle can be challenging. Even when things go astray temporarily, remember that each day is a chance to start fresh and get back on track. Make a plan ahead of time for obstacles such as an upcoming business trip. Reward the family for sticking to the plan with healthy treats such as a day at the ice-skating rink.
Taking steps to get fit family-style will pay off in many ways, and a new year will be off to a bright and healthy start.
Stacey Kendrick, MS, is a health educator with almost 20 years of experience in wellness and population health. She spent much of her professional career at Vanderbilt’s Faculty/Staff Wellness Program and currently works in the Strategic Marketing Department at Vanderbilt. She is the mother to two grown-up and amazing daughters. In her free time she teaches healthy cooking classes, runs, gardens and enjoys backyard bonfires with her husband in her cozy country cottage.