If hurrying through your day is a normal occurrence, if your family’s schedule is overbooked month after month, and if you can’t remember the last time you enjoyed quality family time, read on.
Families with a good balance of quality time report that they have strong bonds. And, when children witness their parents make time for the things they value, it helps the children bring balance to their own lives (1).
One way to bring balance to your family is through sharing physical activities that include the entire family. It’s important to get your children up and active. Did you know that only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day (2)?
Children should spend at least 60 minutes every day involved in moderate to vigorous physical activity. Besides physical health, regular physical activity has an impact on other aspects of children’s lives such as problem-solving, concentration, and academic performance (3). These are all pretty good arguments for carving out some family fitness time.
You don’t need a gym membership, expensive equipment or even a lot of space at home. Family fit time could be as simple as getting the family outside to play kickball or freeze tag. Just remember to keep it simple and fun for everyone.
The first step is to get serious about scheduling. Get out your calendar (or go get a new one) the kind you can write on and hang on the wall for the whole family to see. Grab the family members and sit down to talk about activities that would interest you all. Now, schedule time for those activities. Write it on the calendar in big, bold letters. Take the “no excuse” oath, with each family member vowing to show up on time for each event.
Some ideas for family fit time include nature hikes, soccer games, after-dinner walks, relay races, jumping jack contest, hula hoop challenge, weekend bike rides or even a scavenger hunt at a local park or museum.
Let the kids suggest family-activity options. Hopscotch, hide and seek and jump rope are ideal for the younger tots. A visit to the local playground is a lot more fun when you’re all actively involved. Remember to stay off that park bench and turn off your phone to actively engage.
Getting the children involved in household chores is important, too. Cleaning the garage, raking the leaves, and vacuuming all include physical movement and can help teach responsibility.
Fuel up for Fitness
Don’t forget snack time. Fill those little bellies with good, nutritionally sound snacks to help fuel the activities. Bring along plenty of water so you can all stay hydrated. It’s important to remember that a variety of nutritious foods will help keep everyone full and focused. When you consider snack choices keep these basics in mind:
Protein: Protein is a vital part of our daily diets because it helps our bodies build and maintain the tissue of our bodies (muscles, organs, etc.). Protein can be found in meat, poultry, nuts, eggs, beans, seafood, seeds and dairy foods.
We love raw mixed nuts because of the delicious variety packed into one convenient container. There is something for everyone.
Carbohydrates (particularly complex carbs like grains) can deliver important vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Foods with carbs are fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa.
Dried fruit is sweet and chewy and is a better choice than those packaged processed fruit leather and gummy snacks. One of our favorite dried fruit snacks is organic dried apricots; just a 1.4-ounce serving provides 22 grams of carbohydrates.
Vitamins and minerals: You know most of the vitamins (A, B, C, D, etc.) but you may not think about minerals too often. Minerals are also important for living a fit, active life. Minerals like iron, potassium, calcium, and zinc can be found in a rich variety of foods like beans, nuts, leafy green veggies, dairy products and fresh fruits.
Some of us have diets that are lacking in fundamental vitamins and minerals, so we choose to take a multivitamin because they may be a good foundation for a balanced nutritional supplement routine.
The most difficult part of any fitness program is the very first step, but if you and your family make a commitment to get active together, you’re already well on your way to changing your lives for the better. You can support, inspire and encourage each other every day. Once you get started, it’s easy to make it a routine.
- National Association for Sport and Physical Education. The Fitness Equation: Physical Activity + Balanced Diet = Fit Kids. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1999.