by Stacy Trust, Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM Health Fitness Specialist, AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist
In the month of April, we’re focusing on family fitness, and keeping our families healthy is a team effort. Parents and caretakers must recognize the vital role they play in their children’s health both as providers and as role models.
Adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. They should also be doing strengthening exercises for each major muscle group twice weekly.1 Kids need at least 60 minutes per day of exercise including a combination of aerobic activity, muscle strengthening activity, and bone strengthening activity (those that include impact exercises like jumping or running). The best part is, you can take part in these exercises together, and in intervals of as little as 10 minutes at a time. Get your kids involved in a sport and help them practice their skills. Plan family activities such as hiking, walking the dog, playing at the park, swimming – the possibilities are endless. Find something you both enjoy, and as long as you are moving your body, it all counts!
Did you know the month of April is National Youth Sports Safety Month? This is an important time to remember that staying active year-round will help keep growing muscles and bones strong to help prevent injury when jumping into a new sport or reentering a sports season. This same rule applies to non-sports related physical activity like playing at the beach, climbing trees and enjoying the playground. When beginning a new activity, both kids and adults should respect their current level of fitness as well as what their bodies are feeling. It is never too late to start getting more active. Finding new ways to be healthy as a family is an adventure that can last a lifetime, not to mention extend your lifetime!
We must also complement an active lifestyle with healthy eating habits. It may seem like an antiquated practice, but sit-down family dinners are proven to play a key role in kids adopting healthy eating habits and behaviors. It can even improve their performance in school.2 It’s OK to be realistic; maybe you don’t sit down to a home cooked meal seven nights a week, but you can show that what and how you eat matters, and can even be fun. Try preparing meals together and get creative with everything from ‘ants on a log’ (raisins, peanut butter, and celery) to silly face pizzas (see recipe at www.family.go.com).
The most important part of initiating or maintaining a healthy family lifestyle is finding what works for everyone as individuals, as well as a unit. Get everyone involved, be open and adaptable to change, and make your health a true priority. Remember that you can start small to make a big change – not much that is worthwhile comes easily or overnight. Families that play together, stay together…and stay healthy!