// by Christie Pettus
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates have more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years. The implications of this include increased risk of cardiovascular disease including high cholesterol and high blood pressure as well as social and psychological problems such as low self-esteem.
Knowing these statistics and the risks associated with them for the next generation in an age where TV, video games and time spent on the Internet continue to replace outdoor activities, the need for parents to model an active lifestyle for their children has become particularly important.
“Studies show that kids of obese parents have a higher probability of becoming obese themselves,” says Lynne McWatters, owner of Ship Shape Fitness and childhood fitness advocate. “Instead of simply stating how to be healthy, they must show them, which I believe is more powerful. Actions speak louder than words.”
The consistent philosophy is that the younger a parent can instill the love of exercise in their children the better, and the best way to do that is to exhibit a healthy lifestyle.
“The sooner a child learns the importance of exercise, the better,” says Mary Lauren Eubank, owner of Jax Stroller Strength. “One of the fastest ways to convince a child something is important is for a parent to become involved in the activity. Children will notice if a parent is more than a spectator and it will register that that particular activity has value because mom and dad carved out time for it."
Teaching your children about healthy activities isn’t just about team sports and traditional exercise. Finding fun and different options for families can help parents with kids of all ages to become active at a young age and continue that lifestyle as they get older. Below are some ideas to help families get out and get moving.
A game of family kickball or tag in the backyard can be just as fun as more structured activities. “Kids naturally incorporate fun in less structured settings like playing freeze tag,” says Eubank. “Sure, you could tell them to run for ten minutes and some may do it happily but there's instant fun if you label someone ‘it.’”
Bring Them Along
Many local exercise groups offer ways for parents to bring their kids along for workouts. Both McWatters and Eubank make it a point to welcome children at many of their sessions. It makes exercise easy for parents and provides a space for them to model an active lifestyle for their young children.
Having a set time each week where you get out as a family sets a tone that this is important and helps avoid it getting lost in the shuffle of busy lives. “Make a set family game time each day or week, and don’t be afraid to try new things,” says Tara Foltz, personal trainer and mom of three. “Let the kids choose the activity, and if you have more than one kid, let them take turns choosing.”
Local Fun 5Ks or fun runs such as glow 5Ks, paint 5Ks and inflatable 5Ks are fun competition. Doing these runs together creates family bonding time and feeds the competitive spirit.
“My daughters and I have competed in many 5Ks and triathlons together,” says McWatters. “Seeing the joy, accomplishment, and strength on my children’s faces when they cross the finish line creates special moments we will never forget.”
Those are just a few ideas, but each family is different, so find what works for your family. By making exercise fun and engaging in activities as a family, you are not only instilling good habits at a young age that your kids can take into adulthood, but also finding ways to connect and bond.