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Make fitness a family affair

What better way to teach your children healthy habits than by being active as a family? One of the goals of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health is to get the whole family involved in exercise. According to the report, Americans – especially those between the ages of 12 and 21 – are not active enough.

“It’s really good to engage the whole family in physical activity,” says Jennifer Hopper, M.S., ACSM-HFC-CET, director of Employee Wellness, Worklife and Fitness at Piedmont. “Studies have shown that to prevent type 2 diabetes, kids need as little as 15 minutes a day of exercise, while adults need about 30. Children are naturally more active than adults, so aim for 30 minutes each day. Then everyone wins.”

Hopper says many family-friendly fitness activities are free and has the following recommendations whether you want to stick close to home or are looking for an adventure:

  1. Wash the car together.

  2. Host your own family Olympics. Pick activities your whole family enjoys, such as kickball, hopscotch or hot potato with a Frisbee.

  3. Rake leaves together – feel free to jump in the pile when you’re done!

  4. Plant a garden. You can make it kid-friendly by using planters rather than planting directly into the ground.

  5. Get moving for a good cause – sign up for a fun run or charity 5K. Almost every event has an abbreviated race suited for a variety of age levels, from toddlers to adults.

  6. Go hiking, biking or walking at a nearby state park.

  7. Visit a corn maze this fall. Just be sure to steer clear of candy apples and stick with fresh, local varieties instead.

  8. Take advantage of your local community center’s pool and playground, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.

  9. Window shop at the mall.

  10. Play a fitness game on a Wii or video game that induces activity.

  11. Take a bike tour of a historical part of your town.

  12. Go rafting. Don’t worry – you don’t necessarily have to be athletically inclined. You can increase the skill level depending on how active you are.

Fitness and organized sports

“I’m an advocate for allowing children to pursue any physical activity that interests them,” says Hopper. “These are healthy habits that are going to be hardwired in them for the rest of their lives. Often when I’m consulting with an individual who has been sedentary for a long time, I ask about the activities they enjoyed as a child, like swimming or biking. They often have happy memories of being active with their families and it makes it easier to reengage in an active lifestyle.”

For children who aren’t interested in joining the soccer team or taking gymnastics lessons, “it isn’t all about sports,” she says. “It’s about being outdoors or moving in a healthy way together as a family.”

Regardless of which activity you choose, being active as a family is good for the body and mind.

“I’ve noticed it’s fun for a parent to impart wisdom to their children. It’s an opportunity for an adult to show kids how to do something healthy and positive,” says Hopper. “I can’t think of a better way to spend time with your family than teaching them how to be healthy for a lifetime.”

Check out more fitness tips from Living Better experts.

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