Ready, Set, Move! 5 Ways To Realistically Add More Physical Activity Into Your Family's Life
We are living in times that run at warped speed. The average home is a two income home - with both parents working, typically sedentary jobs. Public schools are limiting, or doing away with, recess more and more every year. Much of the time left over is spent commuting, sitting in cars, to and from work, extracurriculars, and errands for all that other life stuff. And our health is suffering because of it. Did you know that obesity now has its very own insurance code? Even more, obesity-related diseases take more lives, each year, than in war and accidents combined, each year (Dr. Sears' LEAN Kids, p9). It is a real problem, folks! I have clients say to me, all the time, even if "I had the energy to exercise where on earth am I finding the time, without sacrificing downtime with the family"?
It's true; we only have so many hours in the week. We can't control that. What we can control, however, is how we choose to use that time and what we do during those hours. This week we are going to talk about movement and how to add more physical activity into your family's lifestyle - realistically. We hear a lot of about exercise, and the benefits it offers. I go to the gym, and I do encourage others to consider a more structured form exercise. However, it's my opinion that we over complicate things in this area. If we committed to making movement a part of our daily lives, we would make tremendous strides in the direction we need to be to fight obesity.
The younger we instill physically active habits in our kids' lives, the better. From the ages of 6-12, the bodies of children are very impressionable. The brain is undergoing rapid development making more connections (synapses) than at any other time in life. The body is also taking note of what is healthy.. For example, kiddos who are still overweight at age 12 are at 75% higher risk of becoming obese adults (Dr. Sears' LEAN Kids, p9). After 12 years of being overweight, the body perceives the extra weight as normal - making if very difficult to lose weight as an adult. You know how some heavier adults will complain that no matter what they do they can't lose weight. Or that this is just how they are - they've always been heavy. It's true for these individuals, especially if they were overweight kids; which is why it's imperative to teach these lifestyle skills early. To be fair, poor eating habits are also mostly to blame for our current health epidemic, but today we'll focus on the movement piece of the puzzle.
Let's talk about 5 Realistic Ways You Can Add More Physical Activity Into Your Family's Life
1. Get Creative
Are there things in your life that you outsource that you can start doing for yourself? Many of the services that we pay for, we do so because of the manual labor involved. Things, like washing the car, mowing the lawn, and cleaning your home, are physical activities. Kids can help with many of these tasks, and if they can't they can play yard games amongst themselves. What's important is that you are modeling an active life. As an added incentive save the money, you would have spent otherwise, and use it for something fun - a vacation, concert tickets, or a trip to Disney with the kids. Science tells us that spending money on experiences rather than material items makes us happier! Do you have a pet? Make a family walk, after dinner, for example, with Fideo a ritual a few times a week. The kids can bike, scooter, skateboard, whatever, the point is to get everyone moving. My parents, who are dog free for the first time in years, are getting a new dog for this very purpose.
2. Move With Intention
When you find yourself in a situation where you must move, make the most of it - park in the back of the parking lot, or take the stairs. Cleaning your house, or picking up toys? Squat when you bend down, actually engage those leg muscles. Think about it and visualize it - your back will thank you. I have a client who makes carrying groceries a weight bearing arm exercise. She puts the bags in the crease of her elbow, engages her arm muscles, and holds her arms up at a 45-degree angle - rather than holding the bags in her hands while hanging the arms down.
Engage your core while standing, and be mindful of your posture. Think about the movements that your body makes on a daily basis, commit to performing these "menial" tasks with intention. Take it all the way down to breathing. Take a few moments where you truly expand your abdomen on your inhale and fully exhale bringing your belly button back to your spine. This exercise will calm and center you and keep your inner core awake and toned. Talk about what you're doing with the children in your care. Explain that what you are doing is exercising your body so you can be strong and healthy. They will emulate you - I promise.
3. Enjoy It
We all know when we enjoy something, we are more likely to do it. In a nation full of Cross Fit, Zumba, Paleo, and Vegan diets being healthy and fit can seem daunting and overwhelming. It doesn't have to be! Find activities that you and your family genuinely enjoy, and make them a part of your life. Do you like to bike ride? There is an impressive group of cyclist, called Critical Mass; they get together every 3rd Friday evening at Loch Haven Park and bike ride through the Downtown neighborhoods. Over a hundred of them - families, couples, people traveling solo, just riding to ride.
Maybe you have a massive lawn and aren't up for mowing it, but you might like gardening as a family. Jose and I love hiking and when planning a vacation we seek out where we can get our fix. Try that rock climbing wall on your next cruise. You may not want to do everything again, and that's fine. The goal is to find physical activities that you and your family enjoy - and then making them a part of your lifestyle.
Pay attention to the types of activities your kids enjoy participating in. If you can get them into an organized sport, great - if not try to play some yard games after dinner on nights you don't take a walk. Most kids just want to play, and if we as caregivers can create an environment where we facilitate movement, they will quickly adopt healthy habits. My girls love dancing. I'm not a huge dancer, however, if we leave Pandora running all day vs. the TV we are bound to dance it out at least a few times. It's silly and unstructured, but we are moving, and often out of breath at the end of it. And this counts as "exercise", especially for our little ones. They are designed to exert energy in small bursts, so facilitating little crazy moments of power is the perfect activity for them. There is an excellent YouTube channel called Cosmic Kids, which offers free 15-30 videos with stories told through following along yoga. I suggest this as a bargaining tool when kiddos insist on screen time. I'll admit, I even enjoy these videos. We talk more in depth in the LEAN Start workshop series about more ways to get kids moving, and I invite you to register to learn more about this topic.
4. Track It
Kids need 30- 60 minutes (depending on health) of moderate-intensity (working up a sweat) physical activity most days of the week - ideally every day. We don't need to break out the watch clock but be mindful of this. If Susie dances it out with Mama and her sister to 2 4-minute songs, rides her bike during a 20-minute family walk, does a Cosmic Kids video, and chases her litter sister around a bit, she's good. We're not talking about anything too far fetched here. For adults, it's even easier! We only need about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily.
So if you were Susie's caregiver, you dance it out twice and go on a brisk walk. Boom. You will very easily meet your movement quota if you are mindful about adding activity into your daily tasks. Keep in mind; these numbers are for us to remain healthy. Dr. Sears never advise's putting kids on a "weight loss" program. He recommends reaching out to a Certified Health Coach for guidance on facilitating the L.E.A.N principals and letting the child lean out gradually. If you feel you or your child needs to lose weight to get your health back on track, I am a huge advocate for calling on the pros - primary healthcare providers.
5. Call On The Pros
Always reach out to your pediatrician or primary care provider if you are concerned about your health or your child's health especially before getting started in new activities. Once you have the OK, or if you are healthy, Personal Trainers and Health Coaches are excellent, guys. We are passionate about optimizing the human body, highly knowledgeable, and compassionate people who want to help you. I know it sounds fancy, but did you know you can work with a trainer for free at the YMCA? They offer free childcare for up to two hours daily, and if you aren't sure you can afford membership don't worry. They offer scholarships and reduced pricing if you have income restrictions. Trainers, aside they offer group exercise classes ranging from running groups, swimming, spin, yoga, and much more. You are bound to find something of interest. I also offer my services on a sliding scale, based on income. While my certification is more lifestyle and nutrition based, trainers are perfect for the technical fitness aspect.
I will tell you I struggled quite a bit, after the birth of my second daughter, to find my fitness groove. I developed a separation of my abdominal muscles (Diastasis Recti) during my second pregnancy. At six weeks postpartum, with the OK from my midwife, I found myself confused about what physical activities would help me heal, and would not make my condition worse (think anything that twists or bends the spine). Everything on the internet seemed to be contradictory or a gimmick for me to buy. It was a discouraging place to be. However, it was as simple as one session with a trainer and a couple of emails to help get me back on track and feel empowered with my fitness decisions. Don't think that services like Trainers or Health Coaches are out of your reach. If you want to feel better and instill healthy habits in your children, there are people like myself who want to help you.
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