Making Activity a Part of the FamilyPor Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD, Specialist in sports nutrition and physical activity with MyDiet™ -
Do you want to keep your family as healthy as possible? If so, encourage everyone to exercise on a regular basis. To promote activity among family members, become a role model and incorporate them into as much of your exercise routine as possible.
You don’t have to go to the gym or run alone to get healthy; the entire family can participate in many of your exercise activities. Many parents feel guilty about exercising because they think it takes time away from their children, but by exercising with your children, you can feel better about yourself and about your family’s health.
There are many things you can do to make exercise family-friendly. Try as many as possible. See what works for you and your family. Start by talking to your spouse about your exercise goals and the effect they'll have on your family, and always maintain a positive attitude about exercising. Encourage and support each other’s activities, and start thinking of exercise differently. You don't have to walk, jog, bike, or go to a gym every time you want to exercise; doing yard work or housecleaning burns calories and provides health benefits.
Try walking with family members. Young children, however, may prefer to ride their bicycles while you (and your spouse) walk or jog. When you stroll around the neighborhood, have your children choose different routes to help them get excited about exercising. Incorporate some other activities into your walk to keep your children’s minds busy. For example, have them count how many dogs they see. If your neighborhood is too busy for outdoor family fun, try a local track where your children can play on the infield. Most schools open their tracks to the public after school hours.
If you want to change the routine, plan family outings on a regular basis. A hike in a park, skating, swimming in the local pool, playing soccer in a nearby field, or bicycling on a paved path are some options. Choose fun and enjoyable activities for everyone so nobody gets bored. Or, invite other families to join you so you can participate in team activities.
You can even include small babies in the activities. There is a variety of baby joggers/strollers on the market, which are great for exercising with your youngest one. Parents can use a front pack for small infants and change to a backpack once the baby can hold up his/her head. You can put attachments on the back of your bike to take your infant cycling with you. Do not, however, wear headphones. You might not hear important noises around you, such as a car honking.
If your children are active in baseball, football, soccer or cheerleading leagues, walk around the fields or park where they play. You can watch them as you walk around. Encourage other parents to come along. This will promote parental camaraderie.
Pets are often very important parts of families. If you have a dog, don’t forget to include it in your activities. Bring your dog along whenever you go out for family outings.
By adopting exercise as a part of your family, you'll teach your children about healthy lifestyle habits. Your children will be more likely to continue healthy activities throughout their lives, making them healthier individuals. Additionally, it will be easier for you to stay in shape if your family understands the importance of exercise and is willing to make a commitment with you.
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