The value of regular exercise to your overall wellness has been well established. Parents often value exercise for their children in the form of youth sports, or regular outside time. You most likely value it for yourself, making time to come to the gym, take a quick fitness class at home, or go for a walk. However, when was the last time -if ever- your family has engaged in exercise together?
If the answer is seldom or even never, don't worry! You're not alone. Exercise is mostly thought of as an activity done solo or with similarly aged and skilled peers. Children have other children, you have other adults, and everyone is probably into something a little different. However, there are many benefits to exercising as a family and plenty of activities to choose from!
For starters exercise is great for family bonding. Just like a family game night, exercise offers another opportunity to bring everyone closer, and in today's screen-heavy world, these opportunities are vital. Even something as simple as a walk around the neighborhood brings everyone physically close and creates a space for conversing, fun, and emotional growth. You can also learn more about each member of your family through exercise and what motivates them as well as how they work within a team. You also get the opportunity to model healthy motivation and competition to your children.
Family exercise encourages healthy habits later in life. Just like healthy snacking, eating vegetables, and brushing teeth- regular exercise that is promoted within a family sets children up for a lifetime of making healthy choices.
Exercise done together is often less competitive and demanding than youth sports or even games played with other children. Parents are a great source of encouragement and positivity and the more a child receives these types of praises the more stable their mental health will be later on in life. In addition, family exercise boosts confidence and self-esteem in a different way than exercise done outside of the family.
Children learn most of their life skills from home, not school! Exercising together provides great opportunities to both encourage and learn teamwork. A coach or teacher can try to instill this value as well, but if it's not a priority at home, then it won't be as meaningful out in the world to a child.
As you already know, exercising and wanting to exercise are two very different things. It can be difficult to get started and stick to. It can also be challenging to find the right physical activity that everyone has fun doing. Here are some tips for getting started:
Make walking a regular thing: It's simple, can be done in a short amount of time, and it offers some versatility. If someone doesn't want to walk they can skateboard, scooter, or ride their bike. You can also make it even more interactive with scavenger hunts or games of I-Spy as you walk together.
Instead of promoting treats or screen-time as rewards, try offering physical activity: For great grades, a good day at school, or for knocking out all those chores in record time offer a day of swimming, paddle-boarding, ice-skating, or whatever other types of physical activity your child enjoys that can be made special.
Start out slow: You and your children may not be ready to jump in full force into family exercise right away. If that’s the case, starting out slow with 10-minute exercises, family walks and short bike rides will be the best way to stay motivated and safe.
Another great way to slowly and safely introduce exercise into your family's life is to work together with a Personal Trainer. Even with different abilities and age groups, St. Andrew's Family Fitness Personal Trainers can create safe, effective, and fun exercise plans for everyone! For more information, please fill out this short questionnaire.