Six years ago I gave birth to my first child, a precocious little girl who never seemed to stop moving and checking out the world around her. When she was old enough to start walking my husband and I noticed a disturbing fact. Both of us were severely overweight, and we didn't have the energy to keep up with her or to be the kind of play partner that she needed. We felt like we were neglecting our child because running in the yard and playing tag were activities that we were physically unable to do.
We realized that family fitness is about more than just keeping kids active; it's about parents staying in shape to be good role models for their children. In the last two years my husband and I have lost more than 150 pounds between us, and we take pleasure in being able to do outdoor activities, like coaching soccer or running through the sprinklers, with our daughter. We made the decision that we would not make any more excuses about not exercising, and we would make fitness a priority. As parents it's easy to let our hectic lives crowd out time for family fitness, but there are some fun ways to incorporate physical activity into your weekly routine.
- After Dinner Walks--Each night my family takes fifteen minutes to spend on a family walk, with slightly longer walks common in the middle of the week. It's a time to get up and move, but also a time where we bond, talking about the things that we see on our walk and what happened during our day. We found that either a trip to a local school with a track, or going to a neighborhood park added some variety to our walks and made them a lot more enjoyable.
- Geocaching--Now that Alexis is a little older we like to spend a couple of hours on the first Saturday of every month on a geocaching expedition. Using a cheap GPS device we were able to join an online geocaching club, which hides small treasures all around our city for explorers to find. We get to spend some time outside the house, and we see parts of our community that we might otherwise overlook.
- Friday Night Dance Night--A new addition to our family fitness routine is Friday night dances. We spend a few minutes looking for an instructional video on YouTube and practice the moves as a family. Sometimes it's something wacky, like a new line dance, and sometimes it's something slower, like a waltz. Both my husband and my daughter look forward to dance night, because it's become an important part of their bonding. If you have the space in your living room, garage or backyard, you can even invite some of your neighbors over and make the dances a community event.
The truth about family fitness is that children yearn to be active, and they want to be up and moving as much as they can. Spending hours in front of a television or a computer is a learned activity, usually modeled after what they see you doing. Instead of teaching them to waste their evenings on the couch, encourage your kids to seek an active lifestyle by being a good role model and making your family fitness activities fun and interesting.