One of the many challenges of the past year has been getting enough exercise, especially in the winter months. It was difficult for us as parents, but, also for our children who worked in front of computers all day with no opportunity to run and play at recess or to play sports. No matter your age exercise has a wealth of benefits from helping our brains to function better, to preventing diseases ranging from heart disease and diabetes to depression. Finding ways to get exercise in is vital to the health of you and your family.
The warm weather brings new opportunities for you and your kids to get moving. If your child has become a bit of a couch potato, you may need to be creative in finding ways to get them active again. If it’s hard for you to get yourself motivated, remember there is no need to do a strict “workout”- any exercise is better than none- and being active as a family creates opportunities to not only get healthier, but to have fun together! Here are some simple and fun ways to get active as a family:
Schedule a daily walk: Try scheduling a daily walk, for example after dinner. If everyday isn’t realistic for you, go for once a week, the same day each week. Having a set time helps it to become a habit and something your children will come to expect.
For younger children make walks more fun by looking for signs that spring has arrived, playing Eye Spy, or looking for certain objects (find a blue car). For preteens and teens, use the time to check in with your kids about how they are doing. Conversations with teens and young teens often go better when you are engaged in something together instead of trying to have “sit down’ chats. Walking together is a great way to take advantage of this.
Sneak It In: Remember you and your kids don’t have to do “workouts’ to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Ask your child to help out with indoor or outdoor chores that will cause them to move; they can help sweep, vacuum, walk around watering the plants, collect laundry from each room, or help with yard work. Park far away on purpose when driving somewhere, so that you can walk part of the way- use steps instead of elevators. If you can walk where you’re going instead of driving, take the opportunity!
Couch Potato Breaks: It may be difficult to get your child to turn off the tv- so make tv time a time to get active. Do set exercises with your child during commercial breaks – like jumping jacks, or make it a game by doing exercises each time a certain character appears on screen. Let your child choose what exercise you will do together, make it silly and have fun!
Walk for Charity: There are many free opportunities to walk or run for charity. Find a cause you would like to support as a family, and see if there are local walks planned. This will teach your child the value of exercise, but also of thinking of others.
Play a Sport Together: If signing your child up for a sport isn’t possible right now, there’s no reason why you can’t learn and enjoy a sport together. Head to the park to play basketball, or to toss a football; go on short jogs together and set goals to improve your pace or distance.
Choose Active, Outdoor Events: This time of year, there are many fun, family-friendly experiences you and your child can enjoy that will help them to be active too. Essex County has many beautiful parks where you can walk around a lake, walk to find the perfect picnic spot, go on a hiking trail, or enjoy a playground. Places like the Turtleback Zoo offer amazing educational experiences for your family- you’ll stay active as you walk around.
Good Old Fashioned Fun: There are easy and inexpensive ways to keep your child active. Young children love catching bubbles- blow bubbles for your child or help them to blow them, and let them chase them. Jumping rope is a very inexpensive but excellent form of exercise for your child. Playing simple games like hide and seek or tag are also fun and easy ways to get your kids moving.
Remember it doesn’t matter so much what you do, just that you do something; be creative and have fun!