Obesity has become a problem of epidemic proportions in America today. Childhood obesity is an issue that has spawned initiative after initiative on the Federal and State government levels. We keep looking for the motivation to better fitness outside ourselves, and especially outside the family. But if our children are going to develop healthy active lifestyles, they need examples to which they can more easily relate. The motivation should come from within the structure of the family. Here are five simple strategies to help keep your family active, and in motion. Best of all, they are easy to implement.
Plan Outdoor Activities
This first strategy will not only promote a heart healthy lifestyle, but it will also be a catalyst for greater family unity. Set aside one day each weekend for a family outdoor activity. For example, in the spring, schedule a Saturday morning family bike outing. When summer rolls around, make swimming and other water sports a regular on your schedule. The fall’s beauty lends itself to nature hikes, while the winter months could be filled with skating, sledding, or skiing as exciting weekend family endeavors. Any outing can be made more special by packing a heart healthy picnic lunch to share at some point during the outing. There may be some pouting and resistance from the kids at first because they’re missing their favorite Saturday morning cartoons. But make it a regular occurrence on your weekend calendar and soon everyone will be looking forward to these events!
Take Classes Together
Another great way to promote an active family lifestyle is by checking at your local fitness club, YMCA, or community center for fitness classes you can take with your kids. There are many yoga or Pilates classes designed for mom and daughter. Dad, take junior to father and son exercise programs. Kids not old enough to take part? No problem, there are classes that incorporate using little ones as part of parent’s activities. Get the little one’s involved early and as they grow older staying active will be the norm!
Redo The Family Room or “Man Cave”
Most family rooms, and without a doubt Dad’s man cave, are designed for relaxing. That’s right, the focus of these areas of the home is laziness. Big screens, video game consoles, big plush couches and chairs dominate the decor. You can subtly change this dynamic with a few simple adjustments. First, try scheduling family TV time. Reduce the overall time allotted, and at least a couple nights a week, let an exercise show be part of the viewing fare. Keep a basket with items like dumbbells, exercise bands, jump ropes, and an exercise mat in plain view and encourage everyone to make use of them during commercials. If video games are a big attraction, try a Nintendo Wii. They have dozens of titles that require and encourage mom, dad, and the kids to “get jiggy with it!”
Rock & Roll Housekeeping
This next strategy might be a little edgy for some, but instead of doling out chores individually, try scheduling them for the entire family to do together. Crank up the stereo and play some danceable tunes while you turn laundry, dusting, sweeping, etc. into dancersize! Outdoor chores are made for this. Get the whole family involved in mowing the grass, trimming hedges, and weeding flower beds and family gardens. Time your household cleaning and keep track of the family times, and then week by week try to set new records! Change chores to championships and you will get more cooperation from Dad and the young ones!
Redoing the family menu is not an especially kinetic activity you say? Well, it is an accepted fact among nutritionists and family psychologists that families that eat together are healthier mentally and emotionally. Carry that a step further by making your meals more heart healthy. Get the kids involved by letting them pick their favorite fruits and vegetables when you go grocery shopping. Make your protein portions smaller and leaner. How about trying a new fruit or vegetable dish each week? This will bring diversity to the menu and continue to encourage healthy food choices. Discourage second helpings by scheduling a family “dog walk” after the evening meal. You can still go for a walk if you don’t have a pooch! Add some roller skates and/or jump ropes to make it fun for the kids. Finally, make your snacks healthier– popcorn without a lot of butter, celery with peanut butter, carrot sticks, fresh fruits and unprocessed nuts. Healthy eating promotes more active lifestyles. Give it a try and you’ll see!
These five strategies are not the only ones out there but give one or all of them a try, and soon your family’s overall fitness level should begin to soar! The more activities your family does together will help your overall togetherness, as well as mental, and emotional stability. With a little planning, it can go a long way towards raising happy, fit, and healthy kids. Government initiatives are okay, but the best initiatives are the ones you, mom and dad, start in your own family!