Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your family’s health. There is no better time than right now to get up off the couch, spend time away from screens, connect as a family, and make an investment in better health for all of you. Use the tips below to help encourage your kids and family to exercise, while establishing a good foundation for a healthy life.
Benefits of Physical Activity
Exercise provides immediate health benefits and enhances well-being for the whole family, including:
- Avoiding boredom
- Improving mood and self-esteem
- Relieving stress and anxiety
- Sleeping more soundly
- Strengthening bones and muscles
Physical activity promotes long-term wellness, too. Regular exercise reduces the risk that your or your child will develop chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease in the future.
Categories of Physical Activity
It is important to include three main types of physical activity in a complete family fitness plan.
- Aerobic activities work out the large muscles, heart and lungs. Some examples are running, hiking, skipping rope, swimming, dancing and biking.
- Muscle-strengthening activities make muscles work harder than usual. Examples are climbing stairs or playground equipment, digging and shoveling in the garden, lifting weights, push-ups or sit-ups, and using resistance bands.
- Bone-strengthening activities work against gravity—the resistance helps bones grow. Examples include running, jumping, gymnastics, jogging, racket sports such as badminton and tennis, and ball games such as football and basketball.
Time and Intensity
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and teens get 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Adults get the most benefit out of at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. That may sound like a lot, but even short bursts of activity throughout the day count toward the total.
Intensity—light, moderate or vigorous—is how much effort it takes to do an activity. How do you tell the difference? Try the “talk test.” A person can talk (but not sing) during a moderate intensity activity. During vigorous exercise, a person can only say a few words before pausing to breathe.
Make a Plan
Use these tips to create a family fitness plan and make physical activity part of your family’s routine:
- Challenge each other. Get everyone involved by taking turns choosing the next activity.
- Don’t overdo it. Set realistic goals. Doing too much too soon increases the risk of injury or at the least, causes kids to lose interest.
- Keep track. Record your progress and celebrate milestones.
- Make it fun. The more enjoyable the activities, the more likely your family is to stick with the fitness plan.
- Start simple. Begin by walking the dog or tossing a ball together after a meal. Add a mix of more intense activities as fitness levels improve.
- Take time. Try scheduling two or three 30-minute time slots per week at first.
Are You Good To Go?
Before starting a family fitness plan, get a wellness checkup to find any health conditions that could make exercise risky. If you or your child already has a health condition that limits activity, such as asthma, ask your family medicine provider for tips to exercise safely.
Schedule an appointment online with a family medicine provider or call 701.780.2587.