For the Parents
How to Make Your Family an Active Family
Childhood obesity is a hot topic in the world of health promotion these days, and for good reason. In 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. For children with disabilities this is an even greater epidemic due to lack of access to physical activity and secondary conditions. Obesity rates for children with disabilities are approximately 38% higher than for children without disabilities (From the 2003-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey NHANES). Other health problems associated with obesity can include high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and a sedentary lifestyle, all of which could lead to heart disease in adulthood. Due to these alarming trends seen in the health of children, today’s younger society could have a shorter lifespan than their parents. The good news is that these obesity trends do not have to continue! Becoming mindful as a parent about your own health and the health of your children will benefit everyone for the years to come. We challenge you to become a role model for your families’ health and teach your kids the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle.
You might be familiar with the phrase, Families That Play Together, Stay Together. This theory may seem overly simplistic, but in actuality there is great truth behind the statement. This phrase can also be related to physical activity in families. The importance of being an active family has a wide reach, from establishing healthy habits to improving communication and relationships. Research shows that having a support system, whether it be friends or family, improves the likelihood of participation in physical activity.
February is American Heart Month, and it is important to assess the cardiovascular fitness levels in your family to make sure everyone is living with a healthy heart. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Making improvements to be active as a family will not only reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, but instill the importance of physical activity to children at an early age allowing family members to become role models for a healthy lifestyle.
The Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) for Americans recommends that children get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. Most of the recommended hour should be either moderate or vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity. For children with disabilities, it may be necessary to work with the child’s health care provider to identify the types and amounts of physical activity appropriate for them, but the same guidelines apply. The PAG for Americans recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity per week. This aerobic activity should be performed in sessions of at least 10 minutes. For adults with disabilities, these same guidelines apply and individuals should be as active as their abilities allow, avoiding inactivity. Now that you are aware of how much physical activity your family should be getting per week, let’s talk about creative ways to achieve these guidelines together.
Keeping with the theme of American Heart Month, here are some ways to incorporate cardiovascular fitness together as a family:
Walking, Running, or Pushing
Choose your activity! This form of cardiovascular fitness is guaranteed to get your heart pumping! To involve the whole family, utilize your neighborhood, the track at your local high school, a paved trail, or an accessible park. Add in some interval training and friendly family competition to your exercise by choosing various landmarks to increase speed such as: at every 3 mailboxes sprint for 1 minute, or push/jog backwards for 1 minute whenever you pass a stop sign. At the track you can create a family relay by each completing 2 laps each to total 2 miles as a family.
Whether you are hand cycling or riding a bike, this form of cardiovascular fitness is low impact and fun for everyone. TrailLink provides bike trails by state associated with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. These trails often have a flat and even grade offering ideal conditions for a variety of bikes. Make a day trip or weekend adventure by cycling a trail together as a family.
There are a variety of ways you can play together as a family and reap the health benefits of cardiovascular fitness. Try playing backyard sports such as throw and catch with a baseball or football, kicking around a soccer ball, shooting basketball, and tossing around a Frisbee. Adding time to simply play together as a family will help your kids understand the importance of physical activity and get everyone away from the television or computer screen for a period of time.
For more Family-Oriented Sports and Home Activities click here.
Visit the next page for a fun physical activity game to exercise your heart and body!