Help Your Family Shape Up!

A smiling family playing football in a parkStudy after study has shown that most Americans are obese and out of shape, and their bad habits are being passed along to the next generation. An increasing number of kids are overweight, and if no intervention is made, the majority of them will remain overweight into adulthood. This is why it’s extremely important for the whole family to eat well and exercise together.

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Parents have more influence over their children than they are typically aware and if parents are also involved in regular physical activity and are good role models, then their child are more likely to be active as well. The opposite can also be true. If parents are inactive and have a poor diet and eating patterns, this gives the child little motivation to change his or her habits.

Family Exercise…Easier Than You Think

One of the most difficult steps in embracing a healthier lifestyle is making sure everyone in the family gets enough exercise. It’s important to start encouraging children when they are young to make physical activity a regular part of their day. Anything that gets the heart pumping can be beneficial and can be made into a fun activity.

Take advantage of chore time. Give your children responsibilities around the house, i.e. vacuuming, moping, raking leaves, or shoveling snow. When a project or chore becomes boring, which is likely to happen based on the attention span of young people, make slight changes in the routine to keep it exciting. Outdoor activities can be the easiest way to turn a project into something fun and less of an actual chore. With an ultimate goal and maybe a little fun family competition, these intensive activities can turn into something the family will enjoy and over time the improved health and well-being will realized. Hold contests to see who can sweep the carpets the fastest, or wax the floors, or rake the leaves. Finding something that holds everyone’s interest and will make it easier to sustain an active lifestyle. Parents should remember to pace the level of activity so no one gets cranky. It’s important to ensure that everyone will want to do the activity on a regular basis, so don’t rush it, and keep it fun and light.

Make sure the activities are ones that everyone can participate in. Choose things that fit your family’s lifestyle and interests. Whether it’s hiking, swimming, or tennis, rock climbing, etc. find something that puts a smile on everyone’s face.

Be flexible with scheduling. Don’t make it a “do or die” activity, and take into account that sometimes schedules change at the last minute. Flexibility is the key to any successful exercise and fitness program, especially one that you are trying to do as a family. Remember to choose some activities that don’t take a lot of extra time and can be done in a variety of settings.

Warm up and cool down. This can be done by either by doing a few stretching exercises before the activity, or simply walking for a few minutes at the beginning and end.

Encourage each other. When someone in your family does something new, for example, such as swimming a lap around the pool without stopping, give them a high-five or a supportive Obama “fist bump”  When kids feel good about what they are doing, they’ll keep it up and set new goals for themselves.

Keep a log of your family’s fitness activities. With this you’ll find that everyone will want to join in and track their individual progress as well as find new ways for the family to stay fit together.

Another important reminder: family fitness doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to become physically fit and healthy as a family. It just takes willpower, the motivation to say “yes” instead of “later.”