Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tips for Getting Fit Together as a Family

Exercising Together as Family - Great Way to Get in Shape © Katrena
Many families are deciding to get more active together in order to enjoy a healthier lifestyle, increased energy, and more quality time together. Perhaps someone in the family is already experiencing health issues due to a lack of exercise, or maybe the decision has come in an effort to prevent health problems down the road. A sedentary family can work together to adopt an active and more fit lifestyle with a clear plan and goals, input from everyone, and the willingness to try new ideas as needed.

Get Fit With the Kids © Katrena
How to Create a Family Fit Plan

Getting healthier together as a family requires some level of commitment and motivation from each member. Many times one person in the family may make the first move to get healthier and may be able to encourage and motivate the others to join them, but some people in the family may simply choose to disconnect and stay sedentary. Whatever fitness efforts are made by those willing to try are not lost, and perhaps those who initially remain inactive may decide to join the plan at a later date.

The next step in becoming a more active family is to talk about the past, present, and future of the family fitness routine. These questions may help to determine the direction of a family fitness plan:
  • What is the current fitness level of each family member?
  • What are the fitness goals of each person in the family?
  • What sort of health conditions need to be considered when choosing exercises?
  • What type of exercise does each family member prefer and is willing to try?
  • What time of day and length of time is preferred for an exercise schedule?
  • How many days per week can the family commit to exercising?
  • What is needed in order to get started with a safe exercise program?
  • Has the family tried getting more active in the past, and if so, what were the barriers?
Get input from everyone who wishes to participate so that all can have some ownership in the program. This can be a great time to explore various exercise options. Traditional options might include walking, hiking, jogging, biking, swimming, group exercise classes, weight lifting, sports, etc. However, the family might wish to explore less obvious options available in the area that may involve exercise, such as dance, martial arts, playgrounds, drumming, community service activities, and more.

Ensure that everyone will have a safe workout. Authorization by a healthcare provider may be needed, especially if family members have special needs. Proper footwear and clothing can help prevent injuries and allow safer movements.

If family members have very different fitness levels, it can be helpful to choose activities that allow people to work side-by-side at their own pace. For example, family members might walk on treadmills and set their own pace to suit their needs. Many group exercise class instructors will provide options from beginner to advanced to accommodate various fitness levels of participants within the same class.

Exercise can be intertwined with family activities that might not have fitness as the primary objective, such as volunteering for a service organization. Walking the dogs for a local Humane Society may provide a great family exercise opportunity while filling a need within the community. A family might get a great workout while assisting with building a house for Habitat for Humanity or in disaster relief efforts for the Salvation Army. Committing to help within the community can help the family stay on track with a fitness program and give everyone the chance to give back to those in need. This option may also help everyone to stay motivated and stick with a program on a regular, scheduled basis. Yard work and other household chores might also serve as a source of physical activity for the family.

Great Ideas for Getting Fit as a Family © Katrena
How to Stay on Track with a Family Exercise Program

It helps to have a clear plan in which family members decide on fitness activities and set dates and times on the calendar. In addition to the original plan, a back-up plan should be in place for bumps along the road, such as adverse weather conditions, injuries, hitting a plateau, changes in work or school schedules, boredom, and more.

Some families may enjoy the same types of activities, but many will find that some may like very different forms of exercise. Create a fitness routine that meets each person's needs. Some families may choose to meet at a place like a gym while each person does activities that appeal to him or her while other families may wish to rotate among different activities while staying together. The family that does a boot camp workout one day may get some great cross training in a dance-style aerobics class the next day.

In addition to creating some sort of predictable schedule, make room for trying new ideas. Give the family permission to learn how to play a sport, learn how to swim, or exercise with an interactive video. Perhaps the family might want to try different genres of music if dancing or try hiking at a state park that you have never visited.

Have Fun and Get Fit Together © Katrena
How to Evaluate a Family Fitness Plan

It is hard to stick with a fitness plan if you don't get results. Evaluate the plan at regular intervals and take a look at each person's personal goals. This evaluation might be weekly, monthly, or with the change of seasons. Here are some questions to consider:
  • How is the exercise program working for each person and the family as a whole?
  • What is working well and what type of evidence backs up those claims?
  • Were there any unexpected benefits?
  • What are the problems and can the family come up with helpful and/or creative solutions to those problems?
The family may wish to keep the same schedule or create a new routine for the next block of time. What worked previously may work well in the future, but be open to trying new ideas to keep it fun and engaging for everyone. If the family cannot work out together, members might still encourage one another and serve as accountability partners. Exercising together might also lead to other healthy habits that may develop into a better quality of life for the whole family.

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