10 Ways to Get Your Family Moving!
As parents, we often have a million competing responsibilities, but research suggests that modeling healthy behaviors helps kids develop healthy habits, too. A study by Duke Medicine in Science Daily (2013) suggests that kids were more active & made better food choices, when mothers encouraged & modeled fitness & healthy food choices.
According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, “Caregivers play a very important role in determining youth participation in physical activities—how much, how often, and what type of physical activity. [and] . . .help balance non-active time periods (watching TV, using the computer, or talking on the phone) and physical activity.”
As a family, we've tried different strategies to eat healthier and get more active. Caregivers provide the blue-print for children's healthy habits. That's why it's so important to take care of ourselves! The CDC recommendations say that a child needs about 60 min of active play per day.
Here are 10 simple ideas to get your family Moving:
1.Make time for yourself. I felt selfish at first taking the time for my own fitness, but I made this time a priority. Seeing you eating healthy and working out helps kids understand how it works and what it looks like. As Marie Wilson recently said referring to women in media and why we need more women role models, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” The same holds true for physical fitness and health-kids can't become something they can't see-model it for them!.
2.Go for a walk, hike, or run. Walking is free and requires little planning! Adding a walking routine takes very small changes. Try taking a walk after dinner. Running is also great. You can try using a free marathon training guide by Olympian and Fitness expert, Jeff Galloway, that starts with a combo of walking and running. These guides are free, and contain great schedules to get your in shape, even if you are just starting a fitness routine!
3.Make family fitness time. Instead of going out to a movie, why not try swimming, hiking, skating, bowling, golf, or even laser tag. Encouragement goes a long way, so remember to provide words of support for any new things you try as a family. You can designate one day to do outdoor activities or think of ways to incorporate visits to a local YMCA or park as part of weekly routines.
4.Do the Small things. Don’t underestimate small ways to increase physical activity throughout the day, like taking the stairs. In the book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, Navy Seal and Admiral William McRaven speaks about his habit of making his bed each morning as a simple way to get a “small win” and set the stage for continued success throughout the day. Positive reinforcement of these small wins leads to bigger wins, and so on. Whenever possible, find the small wins and soon they will be major victories when it comes to family fitness. Encourage your kids whenever they engage in these small behaviors, and acknowledge their efforts, however small.
5.Be Creative. Try new games. Programs such as, Activity Works, provide a fun list of games that require very little setup to get active. You can find some of these games, like “Don’t Get Caught with the Pillow”, here. Not all physical activity has to be structured, some of it can just be fun time with your kids using what you have at home.
6.Set Fitness Goals. Maybe you have never run a 5k, or you want to try mountain climbing. Set a goal to try some new things as a family. “Run Walk Events” for instance, hopes to “inspire a healthier generation” and provides walking and running events to support community fitness. You can find a local event with an initiative like this or fundraise for an organization like “Race for the Cure.” Being a part of these efforts can be extremely motivating and connect kids to their local neighborhoods and philanthropic efforts.
7.Limit Screen time. The problem with TV is that it can easily eat away physical fitness time. One way to limit TV time is to do physical activity first and watch TV during cooldown or as a special reward. Perhaps try to only watch specific shows, or limit weekly time to a certain amount. Evaluate how you approach TV time, since it can eat into your fitness time. Another idea is to make TV time active! Try activities such as character-led, Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube, instead of watching cartoons.
8.Teach your kids your old childhood games. Remember four-square, jump rope, hopscotch and other schoolyard games? These timeless games bring back memories and funny stories of your own childhood that allow you to connect with your child, while also getting great exercise. Kids even enjoy sharing these activities, that require little or no equipment, with their peers at recess.
9.Be Silly and Have Fun. Chicken dance, La Macarena, Hide and Seek. Make up a weird dance or moonwalk down the road. Physical activity can be a chance to bond and have fun with your kids. Try to add in a little physical fun to everyday.
10. Find the right sport/activity for your child’s personality. A CDC campaign for improving youth fitness that ran in the early 2000s, called “Verb: It’s What you do”, encouraged parents to model physical activity and find activities that fit their children’s personalities. Dr. Jim Marks, M.D., M.P.H, and former director of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC who speared this campaign, said,
“Children not only need to burn energy for healthy development, but also need to interact with peers, parents, and other role models in a safe, supportive environment to learn life skills, such as setting and achieving goals, competing fairly and resolving disputes peaceably.”
Currently, CDC spear-heads a national initiative called, “Active People, Healthy Nation”, aimed at helping Americans become more physically active. The Surgeon General is further using this data to promote a call to action for walking and walkable communities called, “Step it Up”. Taken together, the hope is to “Make Walking a National Priority.”
As parents, we are the leaders of our communities and the way we interact on a daily basis with our children can set the stage for lifelong health. We hope you will consider ways to get active as a family and pave the way for a healthier future for all children.
Families can explore a multitude of activities that can lead to a lifelong love of fitness and really cater to each child’s individual sense of enjoyment, accomplishment, and success. As with all things in life, enjoy the journey, and remember you will find more than just physical health, but a multitude of opportunities for learning and growing as family.
Resources & References:
1.Duke Medicine. “Parenting and home environment influence children's exercise and eating habits.” Science Daily, June 18, 2013.
2."CDC - Youth Physical Activity Guidelines Toolkit." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 Nov. 2016, Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/guidelines.htm
3. Running Programs & Guides | Disney Marathon Training | RunDisney. Retrieved at https://www.rundisney.com/training/running/
4.“About.” Jeff Galloway, jeffgalloway.com/about/
5."The Importance of Parental Beliefs and Support for Physical Activity and Body Weights of Children: A Population-based Analysis | Vander Ploeg." Can J Public Health, Retrieved from journal.cpha.ca/index.php/cjph/article/view/3207.
6.NcRaven, W. H., “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World.” 2017. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1455570249/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1455570249&linkCode=as2&tag=abundancelive-20&linkId=5c5f4f0972414ac15b18d9574cb09afb
8.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. VERB: CDC Youth Campaign. “Parents Can Play a Vital Role Encouraging Children’s Active, Healthy Lifestyles: Campaign to Educate Parents and Guardians about Supporting Positive Activity for Children.” 2002-2006. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/youthcampaign/
9. CDC, “Facts About Physical Activity.” Page updated May 23, 2014. Retrieved at https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/facts.htm
10.US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/walking/call-to-action/pdf/status-report.pdf and https://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/walking-and-walkable-communities/index.html - Call to Action
Miriam Clifford is a freelance writer and mom of four. She holds a MA with Honors in Teaching from City U of Seattle and a BS in Human Biology, Health, and Society from Cornell University. She is an aspiring minimalist and loves staying active with her family. You can find her @miriamoclifford and writing about traveling on
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