Here's a stat you already know: Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2012, over a third of children and adolescents were overweight or downright obese. So what can you do about it?
No one wants to be obese much less have it happen to our kids. You have the power to keep your kids fit and healthy, and even better, you will probably have a lot more fun with them if you do.
Here are six tips for a fitter family:
1. Lead by Example
Let them know you work out, that it's important that you (and if you're married or living together) and your significant other make time to exercise and eat right.
This isn't making your children a second priority. It's showing them that being fit and deriving the mental and physical benefits from exercise will allow you to be the best parent and spouse you can be.
Your kids will do what you do, not what you say to do. When I was young my two brothers and myself spent almost every Saturday out at my Dad's rugby club because, well... he had a game to play. My father never told us to be "active" or "get exercise." We just wanted to be like Dad.
Does your gym have a kid's room? Better yet, can they see your workout from the kid's room? At my gym parents can see their children in the kid's room from any corner of the gym. It's pretty common to see children mimicking their parents as they watch them do the exercises.
2. Take Classes Together
Find activities you love and get your children involved. If there is an activity you love to do or always wanted to do don't let the busy-ness of being a parent stop you. Instead let being your child's role model inspire you to do what you love and get your children involved in it too.
Do you like to do yoga? Is there a place you can go with your children? Is there separate child and adult classes?
Do you have your girls in dance? Many schools offer classes for parents. Taking lessons at the same school as your children will get you and them more involved in the community of the school. That sense of community is a huge part of what makes fitness fun. I know at my boot camp gym half the reason members show up is to see the new friends they have made.
Ever wanted to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Most schools have classes for every level and age.
If your kids are playing hockey try finding a pick up game once a week. Ditto with soccer, softball, or any other sport.
In the end your children often want to do what you are doing, so getting them involved in what you do is a great idea.
3. Plan Outdoor Activities
Find fun activities to do with the family on your weekends. Try once a week to do something active as a family: hiking, biking, tobogganing, touch football, tag or tennis... whatever it is make it fun. When activity is fun instead of an achievement your kids will want to keep doing it.
4. Exercise With Them at Home
You can do activities like yoga using a follow-along-video on the TV. Learn to dance salsa. Do a body-weight-home-workout. There are so many things you can do right in your own home, especially during the colder months just by buying a cheap follow-along video program.
But you will need to re-arrange your family room so you have the space to do these activities. Have a smaller coffee table that you can tuck away. Have enough free space to lay out at least 3 yoga mats which should be enough space for just about any of these activities.
What else can you do around the house? Do small short challenges at home. Who can hold the longest plank? Do push-ups and squats together in the morning before breakfast. Go for short sprints (aka races) in the backyard or at the park.
5. Make Chores A Game
Some weekends you just don't have the time to do an outdoor activity because there is just too much to be done around the house. So make chores fun and get the kids helping out. Show them what to do, be patient, and encourage them when they get it right.
Split a chore into two or more tasks and make a game out of who gets done first. Sing while you work. Make a prize for the best worker.
And always thank them for the effort and focus they put into their work.
6. Make Over Your Meal Plan
All the activity in the world can't out-work a bad diet. Many ills and diseases are related to years of poor nutrition. So clean up your own eating habits and in the process your children will eat better too because let's face it, they aren't making the meals in the house.
Buy more unprocessed foods: vegetables, fruits, meats, poultry, fish, and wholesome whole grain foods (preferably sprouted grains breads). Drink water more often than not and lots of it.
Keep your stash of sweets and decadent snacks to a minimum. If you can buy your indulgent treats once a week so they are gone on a family treat/cheat night that would be ideal.
Never skip breakfast, make yourself and the kiddies a healthy lunch, and do your best to eat together as a family.
Lastly, cook with your kids. Make the act of cooking a fun family activity whenever possible.
Being fit will not only help your children physically but will also help them focus at school. There are so many reasons to keep on top of your children's health. Being the person that inspires them to be active may be just the thing that inspires you to never stop once you start.