We’re just a few weeks in to 2016, which means many Americans have already abandoned their New Year’s resolutions to be more active. Why is it so hard to keep up with exercise goals? In many cases the answer is that those good habits weren’t instilled in us as children. We didn’t see adults prioritizing their own health and childhood exercise was often relegated just to P.E. class and team sports instead of sustainable habits and hobbies.
According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, only one in three children are physically active every day. Furthermore, only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week. This is a public health crisis! Regular physical activity (30 minutes for adults and 60 minutes for children per day), can produce long-term health benefits including:
• Prevent the three leading health-related causes of death: heart disease, cancer, and stroke
• Control weight
• Improve sleep
• Decrease potential of becoming depressed
• Relieve stress
Kids who exercise can also see benefits including:
• Increased confidence and social skills
• Enhanced academic performance
• Improved motor skills
Children have loads of natural energy but need to be taught the importance of regular exercise. They’ll learn best by watching their parents or primary caregivers. Exercising as a family has obvious health benefits, but the most positive outcome might be strengthened family ties. Engaging your children in a new setting, working together to achieve goals, and ditching the TV screen and computer for a little bit can all result in a stronger parent/child bond. So how can you follow through on your exercise resolution?
• Set reasonable goals Talk to your kids about what they might be interested in and come up with a plan to get there. Whether it’s completing a family 5K, swimming a certain number of laps without stopping, or just taking a walk after dinner at least four nights a week, it’s helpful to have a goal in mind.
• Be consistent You don’t let your child skip brushing their teeth, doing their homework or buckling their seatbelt. If you let them skip planned exercise activities you’ll send the message that it’s not important and vital to their well-being.
• Be body positive Even if weight loss is one of your desired outcomes, don’t focus on that aspect of exercise with your children. Instead, give them positive feedback on their increasing strength and capabilities and the fun that comes with being active. Build up their confidence by showing them that they can achieve goals through hard work.
• Strength in numbers Share your plans and goals with friends or neighbors. Encourage your child to invite friends to take part in family hikes or trips to the pool. Check out www.hikeitbaby.com to find an active group of parents who plan hikes in Central PA with their babies and small children.
• Take a class. Central Pennsylvania is full of yoga studios, martial arts programs, YMCAs, and community centers that offer fitness classes for kids and families.
• Turn off the screens. Kids are naturally creative and full of energy. If you (yes, all of you!) set aside your phones, computers, and televisions for a predetermined amount of time and head outside to your yard or park, you’ll be surprised at the workout your child will come up with just by using their imagination. Who knew tag involved so much cardio?
Exercising as a family has proven benefits and might just become the best part of your week. But there’s only one way to find out- make a change and prioritize being active as a family today!