It’s no big secret that parents are kept extraordinarily busy, and often find little to no time for exercise. Similarly, time constraints can make prepackaged food a much more appealing option than preparing something fresh. A 2011 study published in the Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics found that mothers of young children typically eat more sugar, saturated fat and total calories than women without children. Additionally, both mothers and fathers were less physically active than nonparents.
This trend of inactivity and unhealthy nutrition has far reaching effects, though, and can set a poor example for children, contributing to the increase in childhood obesity. Another study in the same journal even found that modifying a parent’s diet has a larger effect on the weight of the child than an exercise program that focused exclusively on the child.
You probably don’t need any convincing about how important exercise is. You just need practical advice on how to balance the demands of parenthood with exercise that will benefit not just you, but also your children.
A United Front
One of the most important aspects of a family-oriented activity program is that it needs to be a team effort. The American Council on Exercise (A.C.E) recommends talking to your spouse or partner about your desire to be more active as a family, and agreeing on changes and activities that everyone can enjoy. If members of your family aren’t interested at first, try not to push them too much, since this can do more harm than good. Instead, look for things they already enjoy.
Don’t assume that this change to a healthy lifestyle has to conform to traditional forms of exercise. There are many different ways to be active.
Any activity that gets you and your children moving will be beneficial, so look for chances to do things like taking walks or playing catch together. But don’t be afraid to get more creative, and remember that you don’t have to be left exhausted or dripping with sweat for the activity to count. Recent studies have even found that short bouts of exercise spread throughout the day have the same health benefits as one long workout, so try to incorporate short activities in your routine.
Many regular activities like yard work or cleaning the house can be made into active games. (Plus it’s a great way to get your kids to help you around the house!). A.C.E, working with Moderation Nation, has made several suggestions on how to making mundane things like setting the table and weeding into games, a project they call Activity Snacks.
Apart from disguising chores as games, you can also modify classic games to make them more challenging and help build strength, balance and endurance in both you and your children. Try playing catch with a large kickball, but bouncing it on the ground slightly off-target, so that the catcher has to reach to get the ball. Sidewalk chalk can even be used to create imaginary obstacle courses.
Reduce Time At A Screen
A frightening trend appears when you look at the amount of time kids spend in front of a screen, be it the TV or a computer. According to A.C.E., kids between eight and 18 spend an average of seven hours a day sitting at a screen, and two out of three obese children have televisions in their bedrooms. A common solution for this is the active video game, or “exergame,” but these don’t seem to be a substitute for real exercise. Several studies have shown that kids who play these games aren’t much more active than those who play traditional video games. A.C.E recommends that everyone, including adults, limit their screen time to about two hours a day outside of work and homework.
Although embarking on a healthier, more active lifestyle can sound daunting at first, it only takes a few tweaks to your routine, and these suggestions just scratch the surface. By resolving to exercise more you can not only improve your own health, but also give your children a great model to follow.
Have you found ways to be active as a family? Please share them in comments!