How to Become a More Active Family This Year
Childhood obesity is on the rise, and it’s not hard to see why: With kids spending six and a half hours in front of screens every day and dwindling school recess times, children are getting less physical activity in a world that bombards them with calorie-packed convenience foods. But beyond curbing screen time and preparing healthy meals, how can you ensure that your family is as healthy as possible?
Create Active Family Time
Creating a healthy family starts with leading by example. When parents are active, happy, and healthy, children grow up appreciating the importance of physical activity and wholesome nutrition. Make a point to carve out an hour out of your busy schedule every day, and dedicate it to physical activity. But instead of hitting the gym, come up with activities you can do as a family. Whether it’s walking the dog around the neighborhood, shooting some basketball, swimming, or working in the garden, getting moving with your children is a wonderful way to reach recommended activity levels and strengthen your family’s bond.
Plan Your Weekends
Unstructured play is great for kids, but too much free time can easily lead to a weekend of loafing on the couch complaining of boredom. Instead of letting weekends fall to the wayside, plan at least one active family activity for each weekend. It costs nothing to start a backyard game of flag football or go on a nature hike, but it can be a valuable bonding activity that gets your blood pumping. The weekends are also a great time to try out new activities. Rent some equipment and check out the local rock climbing gym, try geocaching, or take a couple of canoes out on a nearby lake or river. You’ll instill a sense of adventure in your children and maybe even discover a new family hobby along the way.
Rethink Holidays and Vacations
When it’s time to plan spring or summer vacations, think of destinations that let you incorporate physical activity into your getaway. That may be as simple as taking a family stroll down the boardwalk, or as complex as an active vacation like hiking in the mountains or exploring a national park. You can take that same approach to holidays and family get-togethers, too. Hold birthday parties at the roller rink or batting cages, make a backyard game of badminton a family reunion tradition, and check out the local Christmas lights on foot, rather than by car.
Model Healthy Eating
Another important way parents create an example for their children is by the way they eat. Eating dinner as a family lets parents model healthy eating behaviors to their children, and once you establish a dinnertime routine you’ll be less likely to find yourself turning to fast food or frozen dinners in a pinch. Acknowledge differences in food preferences, but encourage young children to try new foods a few times before writing them off. And understand that bestowing good eating habits onto your children is about more than cooking healthy meals — the way you approach wholesome foods is just as important. Point out the good qualities of different fruits and vegetables, and use positive language and praise — not the threat of punishment — to push kids to try new foods.
Finding time to get active as a family is no easy feat when kids are loaded with homework and parents swamped with work, bills, and chores. But the small things you do together as a family can amount to major impact on your children’s lifestyle both now and into adulthood. Take it easy and incorporate one small change at a time, and before you know it your entire family will be on a path to health so fun that it hardly feels like work.