Healthy tips for family fitness and kids' exercise

You really can get your family into your fitness routine and even excited about the idea of exercise and health. How? Imitation plays a huge part in how kids understand the world around them a one-year-old can start walking after watching her father stroll around the house; a toddler can learn to talk by listening to his mother on the phone. 

As the primary role models in their child's life, parents have an enormous impact on how kids view exercise, fitness and nutrition, and the example they set is often for life. Unfortunately, adults who had negative experiences with exercise, health and fitness during their own childhoods (such as being picked last for their school sports team) frequently pass that unhealthy example onto their own kids, creating a cycle of fitness apathy that's hard to break. If this precedent of lack of exercise and fitness has been set, it can be overcome with a few changes to your family's health mindset and routine. 

Here are a few easy ways to help make an increase in kids exercise, family health and fitness happen.

What's stopping your family's fitness and exercise?

Aside from a fundamental unwillingness to start exercising or a fitness, being short on time and not having the motivation are the two major barriers to families and kids adopting a healthier lifestyle.

No free time for fitness and exercise

Let's face it. Life in these modern times is busy, and fitting fitness, a healthy diet and an exercise routine into a packed schedule of work, friends and family commitments can be something of a juggling act for adults - before they try to set a healthy example for their kids. If you're pushed for time, learn ways of multitasking to work in regular exercise and fitness.

No motivation for fitness and exercise

One of the biggest contributors to fitness and exercise apathy is a cultural shift towards sedentary behaviour as technology progresses. A recent Australian government study showed that a large portion of families are living largely sedentary lifestyles, watching TV or playing video games on weekends instead of getting exercise through outdoor sports. So how can we motivate kids (and each other) to swap the PlayStation for a pair of runners and a bit of fitness?

Tips to get off the couch and exercise

If you aim to start a gradual introduction of fitness and exercise to get your kids moving - family members may not even realise the healthy changes you're making. Introduce kids to exercise by taking 'long cuts', such as leaving the car in the garage and sneaking in fitness through walking to school, the shops or the train station. Allow for time to walk to destinations, as it's great for bonding as well as health' you and your kids can chat and listen without interruption. Increase your activity levels, disguising the effort factor by making it fun. Play healthy games and organise fitness-based outings, such as a family bike ride, rather than sitting on the couch and watching a movie.

Use family exercise and fitness as a reward

Provide gifts that encourage activity and fitness in kids, like a skateboard, bike or hula hoop. Treat your kids to a trip to the local park instead of to an unhealthy fast-food restaurant. Remember that participating in sports without the competition factor is more enjoyable for younger kids and gets them exercising. Be aware of how you communicate about body image, fitness and exercise so that your message is a positive one.

Make exercise fun for the whole family

Kids are going to struggle with fitness if they aren't enjoying the exercise they're doing. Why not check out fun sports teams and lessons near you?

Here are some other age-appropriate exercises that will encourage the whole family to get moving.

Ages 1-5: Buy active play equipment, such as tricycles and balls. Arrange daily outings to a playground that has climbing equipment for exercise. Enrol in weekly swimming lessons and let your children walk to build up fitness rather than always sitting in a pram.

Ages 6-11: Encourage kid activities such as swimming, bike and scooter riding, Frisbee, bowling, bat and ball, kite flying and trampolining for easy fitness. Organise family fun excursions to the beach, park, rock climbing centre or ice-skating rink for some fun exercise.

Ages 12-18: Support active interests in fitness, such as bike riding, skateboarding and surfing. Encourage your children into extra exercise, like walking to the bus stop and local shops or playing competitive sports on the weekends, such as netball, soccer or rugby.

Ages 19-55: Join a gym, go to Pump or Pilates classes, train for a fun run or get friends together for a weekly game of football or tennis for exercise. Book active holidays rather than trips where you end up lying under a beach umbrella. Try social outings that have a fitness base, like a 'walk and talk' for mums (instead of coffee and cake) or touch footy for dads (instead of beer at the pub).

Ages 55+: Continue doing incidental exercise, such as housework, gardening and walking, but keep exercise fun and social by joining gym classes or Tai Chi, line dancing, aqua fitness, or playing golf and bowls with friends.

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