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Family Fitness Fun

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Before our lives were so high-tech, our families were more physically active and got plenty of exercise naturally. Today, however, we go everywhere by car, let machines do most of the work for us and sit for hours in front of the TV or computer. This sedentary lifestyle has been tied to obesity and a slew of related-health problems ranging from diabetes to depression.  I personally want to be an example to my kids about the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy, active lifestyle.

If you review statistics on childhood obesity, they are shocking to say the least.  The generation of children we are raising today will in all likelihood not live to be as old as their parents.  Our children are less active and spend more time watching television than playing outside.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that children who are consistently more active are likely to be healthier adults. And people who don’t exercise are at risk of developing high blood pressure, osteoporosis, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.  That should be enough motivation to set the example for your family to moving — now!

Here are a list of suggestions on ways you and your family can stay active together.

1.) The Park – I have made it a routine to take my children to the park as often as I can.  We may drive past a random park and I will stop for a few minutes to let my kids play on the equipment.  In my area there are several small towns with new park equipment within a short driving distance and I will take the kids to a different one each time.  By doing this they don’t get bored playing on the same equipment each week.  As a parent I also think it’s important for you to participate as well.  I don’t want to be the out of shape, overweight parent sitting on the side yelling at my kids that they need more exercise.  I want to be playing with them, showing them fun games I used to play as a kid.  I’ve often heard parents complain about kids not being as active as they were “when they were young”.  Probably the reason is because you’ve never shown them.  Get out, be active with your kids, you need it too.

2.) Play Video Games – Yes, you heard me right, video games.  Kids love to play video games and they can be fun for adults too and their are plenty of video games where physical participation is a requirement.  The Nintendo Wii is a great example.  My kids and I will play Wii sports or Just Dance on rainy or cold days when it not possible to get outside.  Playstation 3 also has the Move controller (similar to the Wii) where you can interact with the game and avoid sitting on the couch all day with a controller in your hand.

3.) Sign your kids up for youth sports – You and your kids will have a great time participating in local sports leagues.  Many churches provide sports through Upward, a christian based league where your child can participate in basketball, football, soccer and cheerleading.  The YMCA sports leagues are another great way for your kids to participate in an active sport.  My kids are involved in league sports all year long to keep them active and healthy.  Plus, they enjoying playing with their friends and it allows me the opportunity to volunteer coach and set the example for them.

4.) Take your kids to the zoo –  Who doesn’t love the zoo?  My wife and I recently took our kids to the zoo and before I knew it we had walked for hours as we checked out all the animals.  The kids loved it and it was great family time – out of the house and exercising without even knowing it.

5.) Take Bike rides together – When my oldest child was old enough to ride a bike, I bought myself a bike as well.  During the summers my daughters and I will ride around our neighborhood, enjoying the beautiful weather, having fun, all while getting out and getting a little exercise.

6.) Let your kids see you exercise – If you’re going to set on the couch, eat junk food and live a sedentary lifestyle, then it’s going to be difficult to get your family to see the value in it when you tell them to be active.  I exercise everyday of the week and on occasion my children will participate.  Since I use Beachbody workout DVD’s like P90x, Insanity or Body Beast, it’s easy for my kids to try and follow along with the videos.  They may not do the moves exactly right, but they are active and we are having a great time together.

7.) Let your kids pick the activity –  My kids have created a game called, “My Special Day”.  Each day a different person will get to choose the activity that we do.  If it’s there special day and they choose to go bike riding, then I also let them choose where we ride bikes.  My kids love it and it keeps them active and allows them the freedom to choose and plan the activity.  Help them organize family football, basketball and baseball games in the backyard.

8.) Involve your kids in yard work – While you’re out mowing the lawn, don’t have your kids inside watching T.V.  Give them something to planet, weeds to pull up or small objects to move.  My kids love to plant, so I will buy flowers on occasion and let them planet them (I’ll go back later and fix them, LOL).  Have the kids haul off small tree branches you’ve cut down or help plant a garden together.  My kids also like to play on the swing set while I’m outside working.  The point is there are plenty of creative ways to get your kids up off the couch.

9.) Cook together – Cook healthy, nutrient rich foods at home instead of heading for the local drive thru.  I allow my kids to pick what they want (healthy choices of course), help prepare it and clean up afterwards.  This is another great way to spend quality time with your kids, while setting a healthy eating example.

10.) Make chore time fun! – Wow, I know how hard that is, but here are some examples.  Make cleaning or chore work a competition, give rewards for their participation and effort.  Be creative and make it rewarding.  My wife bought an inexpensive chart at a local discount store that she hung on the wall and she can add magnetic emblems to show what the kids have done, such as,  made your bed, brushed your teeth, cleaned the play room, etc.  My kids love to see the emblems go on each day because they know when they fill up a column they will get a prize.

11.)   Take your kids shopping– I know what you’re thinking . . . and here me out before you stop reading.  Take you kids shopping, let them hold the list, let them go pick out the ideas and maybe let them pick out one idea just for them each week.  I take my kids shopping with me each week and though it gets CRAZY sometimes, it can be a fun and rewarding time with your kids as you set an example about buying healthy food choices.

The bottom line is to keep it simple and be creative.  Together we can help fight childhood obesity.

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