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10 tips for family fitness

Make exercise part of family fun with these 10 fitness tips.

1. Make exercise accessible

Instead of buying video games, DVDs, and other electronic equipment for family members’ birthdays, give them skipping ropes, tennis racquets, soccer balls, netballs, and any other exercise equipment you can think of. Leave them in an accessible and visible position and encourage your family to use them as much as possible.

2. Make it fun

Fun and creative exercise programmes are more likely to get your family involved. So instead of making exercise a chore, make it a fun day out in the park, a family cycling day, or a ritual tennis round robin.

3. Don’t make an issue out of it

Nothing will turn your partner off more than hearing you harp on about the benefits of exercise. So instead of nagging your partner to stop being a couch potato, ask him to help you get fit. Plan enjoyable training sessions together – the couple which plays together, stays together.

4. Give them a fitness gift

Is it birthday time again? Instead of buying the man in your life a larger shirt, why not purchase a male-friendly activity for him to enjoy. Try adrenalin-pumping pursuits such as white-water rafting, rock-climbing, surfing lessons, or even an outdoor adventure pack. Or you could give him a personal training pack or buy a punching bag for the backyard. Just be prepared – he may want you to join in on the fun!

5. Actively commute to school and work

Parents, teenagers and children can benefit from actively commuting to work and school. One US study found that children who walk or cycle to school are not only more active, but have better cardiovascular fitness than children who are driven or catch public transport. While for adults, actively commuting to work promotes a positive attitude towards physical activity. Overcome child safety issues by enrolling them in the local Walking School Bus programme. If you live too far from work to actively commute the whole way, do it part of the way instead.

6. Play together

Kids love it when their parents take interest in them, especially when an activity is involved. Take your kids to the park, kick a footy together, throw a ball, teach them to swim, or fly a kite. Socialising with your kids has been proven to boost their self-esteem, which makes it more likely they will remain active in their adulthood. As parents you will also benefit from the quality time you spend with your kids.

7. Put the family on a fitness plan

Do your kids complain when they’re told to go outside instead of playing on the computer? Or is your partner constantly on the couch watching TV? Then it’s time to put your whole family on a fitness plan. The plan need not be difficult – just add in small changes which will deliver big results. Send the message that physical activity is a fun, healthy habit which makes you feel fantastic. One US family fitness study showed that when 68 children and their families were put on a 12-week healthy lifestyle plan, two thirds had better self-esteem and a whopping 81 per cent improved their body mass index. So get planning!

8. Plan for all eventualities

All of us have made excuses at some time for why we can’t exercise and stay fit. We may say it’s too cold, or there’s no time, or we’re too tired. But, these excuses are sabotaging our efforts to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Overcome these excuses with a plan. If it’s pouring outside, move your training inside with a workout DVD, or try our exercise plan from last month’s magazine, or head to the indoor swimming pool. Or if you’re too tired, make that an extra reason to get active as exercise boosts energy levels.

9. Find them a sport

Despite US research showing normal-weight kids are more likely to participate in sport than overweight or obese kids, sport is for every child. If your child feels they lack the skills for netball and football, introduce them to less common sports such as volleyball or badminton. It’s less likely that ‘sporty’ kids will be involved in these sports, which gives timid kids time to practise their skills, boost their confidence levels, and enjoy sport.

10. Be good role models

Do you sit on the couch at every chance? Because if you do, there’s very little chance your kids will be enthusiastic about exercise. As kids imitate their parents’ actions, they will adopt a healthy lifestyle and make exercise a priority if their parents do. Talk positively to your kids about exercise and encourage them to maintain their fitness efforts.

First published: Aug 2009



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