Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. Children as young as six are dealing with obesity and the health issues that stem from it, not to mention the stigma. Obese teenagers are becoming obese adults, developing diseases like diabetes, and are at increasing risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and other medical conditions caused by obesity. The best way to combat obesity is to prevent it, and the sooner you can get your kids exercising, the better.
In addition, if you’re trying to lose weight yourself, you know how difficult it can be if you’re the only one in the household watching what you eat and trying to work out. It’s not always feasible to prepare two separate meals, one for your family, and one for you. That can be expensive and time consuming, and it just increases the temptation to stray from your eating plan if your family’s dinner is something you’re trying to avoid eating while you lose weight. The solution to all of this? Get fit with your family.
It’s never too early to get your kids active. Even babies and toddlers need activity to help their muscles develop and grow. It’s very easy for children that young to spend a lot of time sitting—in car seats, high chairs, strollers—and it can be a precursor to a sedentary lifestyle. Older children often opt for stationary activities like watching TV or playing video games over running around outside, and teens spend many hours each week on the computer. It’s up to parents to get them motivated and moving.
But exercising as a family won’t just benefit your kids. As men age, their risk of high blood pressure and heart disease increases. Obesity, diabetes, and inactivity increase the risk of developing these conditions. But it may surprise you to know that heart disease is the number one cause of death of women in the United States, and more women die of heart disease than men. Also, five times as many women die of heart attacks as they do of breast cancer.
Aside from the many health benefits you and your family will enjoy by working out and getting fit as a family, planning activities to do together will also increase the amount of time you spend together as a family. We all lead busy lives. Kids have school, and numerous after-school and weekend activities. Parents work, and then spend a lot of time shuttling kids to and from those extracurricular activities. Then there are chores to be done around the house, grocery shopping, and other errands. Before you know it, you and your family aren’t really spending much time together at all.
Here are some tips to help you get fit with your family, and increase the amount of quality time you spend together:
Talk to Your Doctor
Before you begin any exercise regimen, make an appointment with your family physician to make sure everyone is healthy and can safely start working out. This is especially important if you or any family member already has a condition like diabetes. Exercise is good for diabetes, but there are some extra precautions your doctor will go over with you.
Plan Family Activities
Make some time for everyone to sit down and discuss creating some time in your schedules to exercise and spend time as a family. Explain to your kids the importance of physical activity, and of being together as a family. Your kids will probably be more willing to participate if they see you are too. Simply directing them to do something you’re not bothering to do yourself will make them less likely to stick with it. Let the kids have input as to the kinds of activities you do as a family. If they feel included, and like their opinion matters, they’ll enjoy the time even more.
Make a Schedule
Create a family activity calendar where you can all see what everyone is doing and when, and make time for family workouts. The most important thing, though, is to try to stick to the workout schedule you make. Don’t let a bad day at work or school sabotage your family exercise time. Make a commitment as a family, and hold each other to it.
Keep it Simple
The simpler the family activities you plan are, the more likely you’ll all be to want to participate and stick with it. You don’t have to drive an hour to a popular hiking ground, or buy expensive memberships at a gym. A simple walk outside is enough to get everyone moving, and will also give you time to talk and bond as a family. If weather is a concern, or there just aren’t any good, safe places near your home where you can walk outside, consider buying a treadmill, and then take turns. While one family member walks on the treadmill, the others can do alternate exercises, and you can switch off from day to day. If a treadmill isn’t right for you and your family, you may prefer an elliptical trainer, which offers a lower-impact workout. Just be sure to go over equipment safety with your kids, and if they’re younger, never let them use the treadmill or elliptical unattended.
Try not to make your family exercise time a chore. If you keep the activities fun, and make the effort to have interesting, engaging conversations with your kids while you’re working out together, family workouts will become something everyone can look forward to and enjoy together.