The range of benefits to exercise are well documented, but it can be easy to neglect positively influencing the most important people – your family
From being plopped into car seats to being perched in front of the TV, encouraging kids to have a sedentary lifestyle is a slippery slope that easy to go down. Getting your kids exercising early can develop their motor skills while strengthening their heart, lungs, and muscles. Also, prioritizing an active lifestyle can cement healthy habits as your kids grow up. As a bonus, working on being a healthy role model for your kids keeps you accountable to your fitness goals as well.
Adults are recommended to exercise at moderate levels of intensity for around 150 minutes each week including muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week. Children between six and 17 should aim for an hour of exercise a day, mixing aerobic exercise (like swimming), muscle-strengthening exercise (like lifting weight) and bone-strengthening exercise (like running).
Just like families can bond through conversations over the dinner table, sharing physical activities help strengthen family ties as well.
Start with a goal
Are you all enjoying a bit too much screen time? Are you planning an activity-filled family vacation? Is your child planning to join a sports team? Whatever your reason, there are many fun, easy ways to get moving. Getting started doesn’t have to be complicated either. Make it a fun challenge that you’re all going to conquer together.
If your kids are old enough, ask for their input. What are their favorite healthy snacks? What activities do they like doing? Encouraging them to be part of creating the family fitness plan will empower them to want to take part, rather than feeling like it’s a chore they feel they have to do.
Lead by example
Live in an apartment? Take the stairs for a couple of floors. Make a point of noting your water intake. On days you don’t feel like exercising, do it anyway. Tell your kids how good it feels afterwards. Encourage healthy snacking instead of veering off into the drive-thru.
Praise their efforts
Fitness is a journey taken in small, steady steps. Changing behavior takes effort. Be sure to acknowledge how hard they are trying. They’ll be encouraged to keep going. Avoid offering food as an incentive or negative scare tactics like, “If you don’t exercise you will get fat.” Rather encourage them by saying, “Exercising will help you build muscles and keep you strong.”
When your child makes a healthy choice or sticks to the activity schedule, make a note of it out loud. When they learn something new – how to ride a bike or shoot hoops – record it to share with family. Ask your kids to teach you what they’ve learned.
It can be a bit slow going getting your entire family on an active schedule, but with patience and communication you can all enjoy the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle.
Healthy Living is a frequently updated content section brought to you by the Saudi Sports for All Federation. In the spirit of supporting our #HealthyActiveCommunity, we’re sharing tips around wellness, physical activity and more!