Exercise doesn’t have to be all about calisthenics. These activities help you make it fun!
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Before our lives were so high-tech, family members were more physically active and got plenty of exercise naturally. Today, however, we go everywhere by car and sit for hours in front of the TV or computer. This sedentary lifestyle has been tied to obesity and a slew of related-health problems ranging from diabetes to depression.
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that children who are consistently more active are likely to be healthier adults. And people who don’t exercise are at risk of developing high blood pressure, osteoporosis, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Sounds like a prescription to get moving — now!
Family Exercise: Shift out of Idle
“Childhood obesity is proportional to the amount of time spent watching TV,” says George W. Shannon, MD, a family physician in Georgia who serves on the board of directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “TV should be limited to time after supper, to sit down and watch informative and educational channels such as PBS, the History Channel, or the Discovery Channel. Limit those TV hours.”
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Dr. Shannon also suggests limiting any other sedentary distractions such as sitting at the computer. “Put your computer in a common area so kids are not in their bedrooms for hours at a time,” he says.
10 Great Family Fitness Exercise Ideas
Now that you’ve set the ground rules for sedentary activities, plan some family togetherness time. The idea is to get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day. So, how can you get your family moving in a way that’s fun and doesn’t feel like a punishment? Here are some easy ways to reach that goal together.
- Walk to school. Lace up your walking shoes and join the kids for a brisk walk to and from school each day.
- Check out physical participation video games. “I’m delighted with some of the newer action toys such as the [Nintendo] Wii games. People have the ability to play tennis, bowling, baseball, skateboarding, and snowboarding,” Shannon says. “Kids love them. I’m generally trying to get kids away from the TV, but in this case, if they are swinging a bat or dancing, it’s great.”
- Build strong bones. Be sure to include bone-strengthening exercise as well, such as hopscotch, jumping rope, gymnastics, or volleyball — any “weight-bearing” activity, one that you do standing up.
- Take a tour of the park. Make going to the park a reward for a job well done, a good test grade, or anything that deserves a positive non-food reward. When you get there, play a fast game of Frisbee or pitch a ball.
- Turn birthdays into an active adventure. Make your presents for birthdays related to activities. Plan a family ski or snow-tubing day trip or visit a nearby zoo. A bike makes a great gift for every family member, as does a basketball hoop in the driveway and a badminton net in the back yard. Make sure that Mom and Dad are included in the bike rides and pick-up games, too.
- Get to the playground. Muscle-strengthening exercise doesn’t mean just weight lifting. Take the kids to the playground to swing on the bars, climb a tree, or play tug-of-war.
- Go to the head of the class. To learn a new activity, take a class together, such as martial arts, dance, or yoga — a favorite among hard-to-please teen girls.
- Walk the dog. Treat your dog to daily walks that include the entire family.
- Plant a garden. Whether you choose fruit and vegetables or just some pretty flowers, get the kids involved in an organic gardening project. They’ll get some brisk exercise digging, planting, and weeding. Then the whole family can enjoy the fruits of their labor with fresh produce and cut flowers.
- Follow your kids’ lead. “This year I bought my granddaughter the Playskool Dance Cam because she loves to dance,” Shannon says. “It takes a picture of a child dancing and puts it on TV dancing with cartoon characters. My basic words of advice are ‘go with the flow.’ If your child shows interest in some activity, such as dancing, encourage it and go with her to participate.”