If you want your child to be healthier and more physically active, you may be in search of family fitness ideas. The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents engage in at least an hour of "moderate to vigorous physical activity every day." But few children get even half that amount of exercise daily.
You can improve your child's physical and mental health by understanding why physical activity is important, what types of activities your family can engage in, and how to better encourage children to take part in physical activity.
Why Physical Activity Matters
There are many benefits that physical activity can provide for kids, such as:
- Improved sleep
- Boost in mood and energy
- Better concentration and focus
- Bonding time with friends and family
- Improved coordination, flexibility, and athletic performance
Recent studies have also suggested that physically active children tend to have a lower risk of developing depression and tend to perform better in school due to increased brain plasticity and improved self-esteem and motivation.
Engaging Family Fitness Ideas
You know physical activity is important, but what types of family fitness ideas might work for your child? Every child, parent, neighborhood, and family schedule is different, but here's a variety of options for physical activities for your child and family as a whole to get you started.
- Walk, jog, run, or ride bikes around the block or neighborhood, or to a local park or recreation center.
- Play games like tag or catch in the backyard.
- Go for a swim in a backyard or community pool.
- Join age-appropriate sports teams.
- Take classes or regular lessons in something like dancing or martial arts.
- Use errands as opportunities for additional walking. Take extra laps around the store or park further away than usual.
- Invest in exercise, dance, and other physical activity-oriented video games.
- Learn different bodyweight exercises and teach them to your kids.
- Try DVDs or YouTube videos featuring easy workouts and yoga poses the whole family can do together.
In addition to adding more physical activities into your child's or family's routine, limit sedentary behaviors like watching TV or playing video games that aren't active. You can even suggest that your kids do some of their in-home workouts while watching their favorite shows.
Encouraging Kids to Adopt an Active Lifestyle
Sometimes kids are stubborn about going outside; they may prefer to stay indoors on their phones, computers, or gaming consoles. But you can make physical activity more enjoyable by crafting family fitness ideas based on their age, interests, and skills.
- Make it a game. Use apps or create your own personalized games that turn physical activities into a friendly competition.
- Set goals and create challenges. You and your child should create both individual and family goals, such as increasing daily steps or time spent being active, and you can invent fun challenges to help your family attain those goals.
- Track progress. Tracking your progress keeps children accountable and celebrates their achievements. Use stickers, fitness trackers and apps, or any method that engages your child's interests.
- Be a role model. Your child will look to you for guidance, so if you're more active, your child will likely want to be more active too.
- Plan group activities. Being active together is critical and enables you to act as a role model to your child.
The most important thing to remember when implementing these family fitness ideas is to set your child up for success. When they resist, give them a gentle push because children often need encouragement and support, especially when picking up new habits. But don't make them commit to activities that make them miserable — the stress could derail the benefits they would have received from the physical activity.
In addition to helping ensure your children are leading healthy lives, you may notice your own physical activity levels and overall health improving as you model the healthy behaviors you want for your child. So what are you waiting for? Get moving!