Being Physically Active Together as a Family

Today, nearly 1 in 3 children (ages 2 – 17) are overweight or obese. This is causing children to experience an increase in health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which normally would not have been experienced until adulthood.

It is important that at an early age we teach and model for our children how to live a healthy lifestyle. Living a healthy lifestyle includes but is not limited to: making healthy food choices (most of the time), getting enough sleep and being physically active most days of the week.

Physical activity helps to maintain weight, build strong bones, promote muscle and joint development and helps reduce the risk of obesity and many chronic diseases. In addition, physical activity can be a great way to reduce stress and improve your mental health and mood.

It is recommended that children engage in age-appropriate, moderate- or vigorous-intensity activities for a total of 60 minutes each day. Adults should engage in moderate- or vigorous-intensity activities for a total of 30 minutes each day.

If your child has a disability, it is important for him/her to be physically active as well. Check with your child’s doctor or therapist to see how you can adapt activities so they can participate too.

Examples of moderate-intensity activities Examples of vigorous-intensity activities
Children Adults Children Adults
Walking to school Walking fast Playing tag Jogging or running
Riding their bikes Water aerobics Jumping rope Swimming laps
Active recreation, such as hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading Bicycling on level ground or with a few hills Martial arts or dance Aerobic dancing
Playing or climbing on a jungle gym Pushing a lawn mower Playing sports such as soccer or basketball Playing basketball

While 60 minutes can seem like a lot of time, take a moment to think about everything else that you and your child do during the day, like watching television, playing video games and spending time on Facebook. When you compare it to the other activities in your day, being physically active is really only a small portion of your day. If this still feels like a lot of time, remember that 60 minutes of physical activity doesn’t need to be done all at once. You can break it up into 10 or 15 minute increments and do a variety of activities throughout your day.

The best way to encourage your child to live an active lifestyle is to be a role model for him/her. Another great way is to make it part of your family routine. Below are just a few easy ideas on ways you could include physical activity in your family’s day:
-Active chores – vacuuming, raking leaves
-Playing games – hopscotch, jump rope, musical chairs, hot potato
-Playing sports – soccer, basketball
-Dancing to music
-Go for a walk or a hike
-Stretching or yoga, either in the morning when you wake up or as a relaxation technique before going to bed.
-Setting up obstacle courses in your backyard
-Read books together and act them out. A favorite active children’s book is “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle.

There are a lot of great resources for coming up with ideas for fun and easy activities that you can do as a family:
Let’s Move!
Let’s Move! Childcare
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
American Heart Association – The Life is Why Family Health Challenge

What are some of your favorite physical activities that you and your family like to do together?

Rebecca Michelsen, M.Ed., MCHES is the Community Outreach and Education Coordinator at Penfield Children’s Center.

References:
“Active Children and Adolescents.” Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Web. 23 September 2015. < http://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter3.aspx>
“Get Active.” Let’s Move: America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. Web. 23 September 2015.
“Get Kids Moving.” Let’s Move! Childcare. Web 23 September 2015
“How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?” Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Web 23 September 2015 < www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm>
“What is Childhood Obesity?” American Heart Association. Web 23 September 2015.

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