You walk into the house after a long day at work. Johnny is sitting in the family room playing video games and Jennie is lying on her bed texting friends and watching TV. You know your family needs to be more active. You know too much screen time is harmful to their health. You know that you must set a good example for a healthy lifestyle. But how can you do that when all you want to do is sit down and join them? Well, it’s time to tackle the impossible and get everyone up off the couch.
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day for children 6 to 17 years old. They recommend a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 days a week for adults. An active lifestyle has many benefits for the entire family. It improves cardiovascular fitness, builds strong bones and muscles, and helps to control weight. It helps with mental and emotional well-being and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. Physically active kids have better grades and better classroom behavior. Structured group activities help build self-confidence and provide social interaction.
It is important to make the activity a fundamental part of your life. Here are a few ways you can help your family move more each day and have some fun while you are doing it:
Get everyone involved
Hold a family brainstorming session and come up with a list of fun physical activities.
Spend family time being active
- Play at the park.
- Take a walk after dinner.
- Go for a family bike ride (wear helmets).
- Play a sport together (basketball, soccer, softball).
- Take an active vacation (hiking, skiing).
Add physical activity to your daily routine
- Walk or bicycle to school instead of riding in a car.
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park farther away from the store.
Learn a variety of skills to find what you love
- Teach your kids how to ride a bike or ice skate.
- Enroll in a class to learn to swim, dance, or ski.
- Look into organized sports or clubs that suit your child’s interests.
Limit Screen Time
- Limit screen time to one or two hours a day.
- Don’t put screens in bedrooms (TV, phones, computer, video games, etc.) Kids will spend more time away from the rest of the family if there is a screen in their room.
- Turn the TV off during meals. Family meals are a good time to talk to each other.
Active parents tend to have active children. It is up to you to be a good role model, encourage family and individual physical activity, and enforce the rules.
“Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans”, https://health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf
“Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity”, https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adding-pa/barriers.html