It’s a sobering fact: Most kids spend more than seven and a half hours per day in front of a screen. And the average adult spends eight hours in front of a screen per day, according to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. That’s why it is important for the whole family to get moving and get active.
“Children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day,” said Julie Blanchard, M.S., a community health educator for Carilion Clinic. “And they need it for the same reasons we tell adults to exercise. It can help control weight and lower their risk for disease, but exercise also helps increase a child’s self esteem.”
But don’t worry; exercise doesn't have to occur all at once. Break exercise up into two 30-minute sessions or even six 10-minute sessions.
“What is important is that kids and adults are exercising at enough intensity that their heart rate is elevated,” Blanchard explained.
So, how can you make sure that both you and your kids are getting enough exercise in their daily routine? Be a role model for your kids and make exercise a regular priority for the entire family.
"If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance that their children will also be obese, and if both parents are obese, their children have an 80 percent chance of being obese,” Blanchard noted. “If parents can get out and get 60 minutes of exercise with their kids and make it fun, that is absolutely the best thing they can do.”
Plus, when you make exercise a family affair, it is another great opportunity to spend time with the ones you love the most and make some great memories. Here are some fun ways for the whole family to get active:
1. Take a walk every night after dinner as a family. Bring the dog, too!
2. Go for a scenic hike together. The area is rich with outdoor options, so take advantage of it and pick a new trail every weekend. Visit roanokeoutside.com.
3. Make chores fun. Get the kids to help rake leaves and see who can make the biggest pile!
4. When the temperatures rise, put on your swim suits and have a family car wash. Don’t be surprised if a water fight breaks out. That is all part of the fun.
5. Hit the pool at your local recreation center. It is a great way to combine fun and exercise for the entire family.
6. Plant and care for a vegetable garden together as a family. Plus, you can all enjoy cooking and eating the healthy vegetables you grew together.
7. Do you often sit down as a family to watch your favorite TV show? Have contests during the commercial breaks to see who can do the most jumping jacks or sit ups.
8. Develop some new skills. Enroll in a class together or sign the kids up for their own classes. Swimming, dancing, tennis, or just about anything that gets you moving will work.
9. Don’t celebrate special occasions with food. Instead, do something active that the whole family would enjoy, such as a fun game in the backyard.
10. See who can be the first in the family to achieve the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award. Adults and children can both receive the award. Visit presidentschallenge.org
11. Just dance! Turn on your favorite music and have a dance party in the living room with the kids. No one will be watching your moves.
12. Take part in a local GPS treasure hunt or set up your own in the backyard.
13. Remember the games you played as a kid? Hide and seek, duck-duck-goose, red-light-green-light – bring them back and join in on the fun.
14. Create a backyard full of activity. If your kids see it, they will play. If they don’t, they will be more inclined to just watch TV.
15. Train for the school fitness test as a family. Set goals and reward each family member for meeting their goal.
16. Create an obstacle course in your own backyard out of objects you have around the house. See who can complete the obstacle course the fastest or the most times in a certain time period.
17. If you have an older child that is not into playing games, just take them to the mall. Set up some ground rules: no junk food and you both have to walk the entire mall before you will buy them that piece of clothing they have been begging for.
18. Look into family fitness programs at your local health club. Many clubs offer a family discount and provide a range of activities to suit everyone.
19. Hit the local greenways. The kids can bike while you jog or everyone can bike. Visit greenways.org.
20. If you have little ones, organize a playgroup with other parents of young children in your neighborhood. While the toddlers play in the center of the yard, the adults can do a series of different exercises while watching them play.
21. If you have a baby that is crawling, get down on the floor and crawl with them. Crawling helps develop upper body strength for both you and your baby.
22. Plan 10-minute spurts of activity followed by 5-minute rest periods. A game of tag is a perfect example.
23. Train together as a family for a charity walk or run.
24. If your kids love gadgets, give them a pedometer that measures how many steps they take every day. Better yet, make it a family challenge and see who can take the most steps each day.
25. And if you can’t break the screen time habit completely, choose active video games that require you and your child to get up off the couch and move!
Not only will both you and your kids get your exercise, you will be setting a great example for your children for years to come. If being healthy and active is important to you, it will be important to your kids. If you have questions about you or your child’s fitness level, feel free to talk to your doctor about ways to improve the health of everyone in the family.