Family fitness is about individuality!

2013June04_FamilyFitness_ANothing beats going out for the day with the family and really getting engaged in things that keep you all interested, entertained and active. If youngsters see their parents and role models exercising and leading an energetic life then they might be less inclined to recline on the sofa and watch TV and more encouraged to get out and about themselves. However, while happy fit families might be the lifestyle ideal you’re aiming for ,you also need to make sure that everyone’s individual fitness needs are considered too. Family fitness is also about individuality!

Everyone’s interests, not to mention physical ability, and lifestyle, changes over time. Grown ups find it harder to climb trees and young children are not really capable of running marathons, for example. In any family, there are always going to be different ideas, interests and needs which ¬†either add to the positive dynamic of the family as a whole, or create conflict. Making sure that everybody is being looked after in the right way is a challenge that you, as the adult, need to be aware of and prepared for. When it comes to health and fitness issues there are certain age-related factors to consider:

Toddler time

While you’re hardly going to be signing your preschooler up to an intense fitness session or expecting them to grapple with a set workout, as soon as tots can walk unaided you do need to think about how much energy they are expending and whether they are working their muscles enough. This is a crucial stage of development and even toddlers can suffer from too much sedentary time watching television. Thankfully, this age group are naturally curious and active, as parents soon find out. So you shouldn’t need to have to spend too much time encouraging tots to run around. Trying to get them to sit down is another matter.

So how active should under fives be? According to guidelines, children at this age need to be active for at least three hours a day, whether this is indoors or outside. This doesn’t have to be continuous activity though so parents can have spurts of moving around. Don’t take your youngster on a long hike but instead incorporate spaces in the day to get moving. It’s important to remember that at this age youngsters are different shapes and sizes too, so don’t get obsessive about a chubby toddler, this doesn’t mean they are overweight or unhealthy.

Activities for 5-18

Once youngsters hit school age, until they leave, the recommended amount of physical activity necessary is an hour of aerobic exercise each day. This doesn’t have to be continuous exercise so finding small chores to do might work, or running errands if they’re old enough. It’s not too young to introduce the idea of a fitness environment either. Is there a class that your kids would like to join in with? Or some type of exercise that they would enjoy doing each week?

With work, school and social life, it is easy when children are growing up for the idea of family fitness to seem like a distant dream. But instilling the idea of regular family time and making this an active time is a great idea. It’s about quality not quantity and spending time doing something your children enjoy and value, rather than getting them to fit into your lifestyle.

Lazy teens

If you’ve tried, and possibly failed, to get your teenage kids to do anything remotely active, then you’ll know what a massive task this is. But evidence shows that a diet of social networking and junk food could lead to childhood obesity and a raft of health problems as an adult. However, there is evidence that sleep is essential to teen wellbeing. So before you start feeling too exasperated that you teens are spending too much time in bed, it’s important to recognise that they are still growing and might need more sleep than you. Work round this by finding interesting activities that don’t start too early in the morning to appeal more to any teens in the family. Just because you might like to be up with the lark at the weekend doesn’t mean everyone else does.

A University of Pennsylvania study looked at the Body Mass Index (BMI) of adolescents every six months over a four year period. The sleeping habits of the participants were recorded and it was found that for each extra hour of sleep the young people enjoyed, the more their BMI reduced. The biggest benefit was seen in youngsters at the higher end of the BMI scale. Although the study didn’t take into account calorie intake, it could be that those who slept less exercised less, or perhaps sleep had an impact on hormones affecting weight gain. The point being, that getting exasperated at your seemingly ever-sleepy teenagers might not be in their best interests but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t keep fit.

Active adults

Adults should be striving to do two and a half hours of aerobic activities each week with some strength training exercises, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So while as an adult you may be making sure youngsters are developing well for adulthood, you also need to check you’re not making excuses not to exercise as well. Grandparents should think twice before sitting on the sidelines too. A U.S. Surgeon General report on physical activity and health suggests that inactive seniors are more likely to develop heart disease. It always pays to stay active as you age.

How are you keeping fit as an individual and as a family? Do you need advice, encouragement or ideas? A program for all ages can help so drop us a line.

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