Monday, April 18, 2016

How Exercising Together Can Make Your Family Stronger

Once upon a time, when Joseph and I had just been married a few months, we got the brilliant idea to have a family kickball game. It took less time to drive to the park than it did for the "game" to descend into bloody chaos that involved disputes of who was playing by the right rules - who should be on which team (Garvins VS Johnsons was strongly favored by some).  It actually ended with me sitting on a park bench crying and questioning all my decisions in life.

A lot of the time, Fitness is a very solitary pursuit. It is where you get your "me" time. - when you finally get away from the family and just focus on you. That can be one of the reasons some of us even exercise!

But parents who exercise with their children not only get healthier, but strengthen the family's bond, this makes family exercise as a solution for both the nation's obesity epidemic and increasing family instability.

“There are all kinds of ways that physical activity enables good family relationships,” said Sylvia Rimm, a psychologist and director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland.

Exercise not only improves health, but increases self-confidence and reduces anxiety in children. it gives them the same amazing benefits of being active that it gives you - plus the added bonus of spending time with parents and siblings.

Exercising together, however, can make the family unit stronger, not just its individual parts.

Doing physical activity together can really bond families. While there still are feelings of being competitive they aren't as oppositional - they feel a closeness to their parents and are able to identify then are more than people who work and nag and are disconnected. It can strengthen the bonds between siblings, who may not choose to be with each other otherwise.

The Ugly statistics are two-third of American adults overweight or obese (and one-third of children), getting the whole family off the couch at the same time can be daunting, particularly since both parents work outside the home in 6 out of 10 families, and children often have homework and extracurricular activities. That challenge along with getting healthy dinner on the table, completing the homework, making meaningful connections, trying to work on family relationships - it is A LOT.

(But just like Family meal Time) the benefits suggest families should make it a priority, and in our family most likely a successful effort often starts with the mother.

Seventy to 75 percent of the time, it’s the woman in the family who makes the decision when it comes to wellness and preventive care. When the mom starts adopting certain health behaviors, it spreads to the rest of the family.

Does reading this make you feel like you might be more likely to exercise yourselves, since many of us feel guilty if they spend time working out, because it takes time away from their children.

But the opposite is true!! When parents exercise, their children are more likely to do it themselves.

Making time

In its recently released dietary guidelines, the U.S. government stresses the need for vigorous exercise for both children and adults for optimal health.

Adults should exercise at moderate levels of intensity for 150 minutes each week and perform muscle-strengthening exercises (like strength and resistance training) at least two days a week, the guidelines say.

For children ages 6 to 17, they urge an hour of exercise every day, most of it in the moderate to vigorous range, mixing aerobic exercise (like tennis or swimming), muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities (like running, jumping rope and lifting weights).

I know that for my family - when we finally end up at home at the end at the end of the day - We are tempted to collapse in front of the TV after dinner, or even worse, retire to their rooms with individual screens. But like the rest of the habits we are learning, the easiest way to combat this is simply to plan.

For those of us that feel like we are running kids places ALL the Time - this one can be a bit hard to swallow at first: 

One of the biggest problems is that parents don’t spend enough time organizing their young kids, so video games and technology are just really absorbing kids and keeping them from healthy exercise.

We as Parents must take time to organize the family's down time, scheduling physical activities like a bike ride, roller bladeing or family swim time at the YMCA. Even taking at 15-minute walk together after a meal can have immediate health benefits, such as lowering blood sugar levels (which can help prevent type 2 diabetes) and helping the body digest food more effectively. It is our jobs and moms and dads to say (brightly) (WINK!!) Let's finish cleaning up dinner and then'll we go throw the football. Or Since the weather was so beautiful today, Let's walk around the neighborhood and see what new flowers are blooming.   -- I am terribly guilty of feeling like - as soon as I get this dishes done, I am gonna watch my show and zone out! But the benefits of being active and the risks of being inactive as just to terrible to ignore anymore. 

Of course, it’s easier in some places than others. For some, the weather can be challenging, particularly in winter; others live in so-called fitness deserts, where a lack of parks and trails makes it more challenging for families to exercise than those who can converge on a rail trail within minutes.

In cases like these where our job as parents and as the leader becomes even more important. It becomes necessary  for parents to provide those opportunities, to get children to a place where they can play.

Although vigorous exercise six or seven days a week is the ideal, families who are new to exercise should start out slowly to avoid injury and burnout, and even exercising once a week as a family is enough to bring it closer together,.

In most instances, more is better, and 30-45 minutes minimum is the ideal. Is that practical as a family? No. It’s very difficult for everybody’s schedule. But I believe you can achieve the bonding, the social benefit from doing things as a family, by doing it just one time on the weekend. That takes some of the pressure off.

Just like family meal time can be so difficult in the beginning, just like it can still be really difficult at time for seemingly no reason - the benefits out weight all the effort that it takes.  Being active as a family is the same way. We can change our children's lives by being active with them. It can change their immediate health, give them a changed view on fitness and exercise than can benefit them their whole lives and it can bring you closer together as a family.