Fit Fitness into Your Life

Fifty years ago people finished a day’s work and needed rest. Today they need exercise.

Since the first turn of the wheel, we humans have been continually creating technological innovations that make our lives more convenient and efficient. The problem is that sometimes efficient doesn’t mean effective. In the past, for example, walking to school, chopping and hauling wood for heat, and working in the field to grow food were all ways that physical activity was necessarily combined with work. Now, while efficient technology reduces our need for physical work, it also decreases opportunities for physical fitness.

We have to be more intentional about fitting fitness activities into our everyday lives, but perhaps it’s easier than it might seem when we remember that the little things add up. Here are suggestions to get started:

For more advice on keeping your family moving, see Proper Fitness Means Healthy Kids.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • The level of exercise that is best for you depends on your current health, so check in with your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.
    • Maximize the potential benefits and reduce the potential risks of a new physical activity by taking time to reading up on it and talk to a trainer, coach, or experienced friend.
    • The biggest reason people don’t exercise is their belief that they don’t have the time. But there are countless sources of advice on activities you can find the time for if you try.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • When your child is an infant, carry her in a front or back carrier. The added weight builds your upper body strength, and the physical closeness promotes positive attachment between the two of you.
    • Add five or ten minutes of relaxing stretching or gentle yoga exercises to your bedtime routine. Or set aside a few minutes to do exercises with your kids. If you don’t know many stretches, ask friends or family members what they do, or look online for examples.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • When considering gifts to give your kids, be sure to think about items that will get them—and you—moving, like bikes, hula hoops, jump ropes, balls, and even games like Twister or marbles.
    • Teach your kids how to play Charades, a free, play-anywhere version of several modern board games.
    • If you model healthy fitness in your daily life, it will make a big difference to your kids. Easy habits like walking to the drugstore, parking a bit farther from the entrance to the store “to get our walk in,” taking the stairs, and doing sit-ups during TV commercials help children see that fitness is a regular part of life.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • If your kids enjoy video games, consider getting “Dance, Dance, Revolution (DDR),” a dance-based video game for multiple players that has everyone moving their feet to music based on instructions shown onscreen. Be sure to try it yourself!
    • Check out fitness videos from the library with your kids — chances are there will be one that you’ll enjoy doing together.
    • For a fun family outing in not-so-nice weather, try bowling or basketball in a local gym.
    • Consider adding to your child’s “to-do” list age-appropriate responsibilities that incorporate exercise, like walking the dog, mowing the yard, or washing the car.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • If your teen is looking for a job, remind him to check with garden centers, grocery stores, childcare centers, and other settings where physical activity is part of the occupation.
    • Ask your teenager to support you as you add more physical activities to your own life. At this age, your teen can probably help you identify do-able fitness goals and think up creative ways to turn less active behaviors into more fitness-friendly ones. In the process, she will likely set some personal goals for herself and make changes as well!
    • Exercise is sometimes easier when it’s done with a friend. If your teen is reluctant to exercise, help him find a buddy for that walk, run, or workout.
  • Investigate volunteer opportunities in your community that involve physical activity. Your teen and you may even find an activity you can do together, such as stocking food supplies at your local foodshelf.

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