HomeHealth & BehaviorHealth & Nutrition

Family fitness

How you can help at home: Families can help reinforce healthy lifestyles with these easy activities.

By Amy Kaiser, Consulting Educator

Alarming statistics of childhood obesity and inactivity flood the media. Research points out that Americans are falling behind in physical fitness. As parents and educators, we have a responsibility to make sure our children know the importance of good health.

Here's how to do it

Children are interested in trying new physical activities. Neighborhood parks, clubs, and schools have many free or low-cost activities, but the core fitness that needs to be established is cardio-fitness, simply defined as continuous movement for an extended period of time.

Walking, jogging, biking, rollerblading and swimming are core activities. Families who exercise together can establish a bond that helps everyone remain active. The best habits are reinforced with a schedule. Pencil exercise time into your daily calendar and establish a time each day that works for everyone in the family. Family walks are fun and healthy, and encourage conversation.

Family walking tips

Since variety is the spice of life here are a few family walking tips:

  • Walk in different areas of your neighborhood or town.
  • A rainy day walk with umbrellas and boots is fun and adds variety to the exercise routine.
  • Try a night walk with flashlights.
  • Walk and toss a ball back and forth.
  • Add some intensity by racing home on the last block.

Amy Kaiser is a physical education teacher specialist for the Duluth Public Schools in Minnesota. A stay-at-home mom for several years, she re-entered the education field and has been working as an elementary physical education specialist for the past 12 years. Ms. Kaiser serves on district and state curriculum committees and was recently honored as the 2005 Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year in Minnesota.

Comments from readers

"Dear Gt. Schools and Parents, As a 76 yr. old mother of 8, grandmother of 11 and Grgrandmother of 2 and past Long Dist. runner for 26 years, I see that parents NEED to FEEL 1ST the GREAT FEELING of the 'Oxygen High'created by building endurance in Cardio exercise...something that cannot be explained in words....maybe euphoria would do it. I began jogging at 37 when USAF Dr. Kenneth Cooper came out with the Astronaut AEROBICS Jogging program and ran my last SR. OLYMPICS race at 64. I was not a child athlete and never had any interest in sports but this was FREE and I could go out and do my run before work and come home and wake the children for school I also started a FAMILY FUN RUN on Sat. mornings and was amazed at about 10 families coming and running together JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT... from our Elementary school, back in 1978. It is a well know fact that we ALL LOVE running from the time we learn who or what CAUSED us to lose that love?? And with a little REMINDING AND REMEMBERING we can all get in touch with it climbing trees etc. Of course this says that parents make a Choice to NOT do Sat. a.m. cartoons or what ever else keeps their children SITTING on their little 'Buns'and while perhaps eating junk food in place breakfast? We NEED to put a little more thought into raising our OWN AWARENESS of how much Advertisers are influencing US as well as our children with their subtle and NOT SO Subtle messages. In the PTA or what ever the Parent Group is called these days, those who already HAVE AWARENESS of what I'm speaking about need to make their Presence and Thoughts KNOWN in a gentle and Persuasive way for 'THE FUN OF IT AND FOR THE HEALTH OF IT', as we also know just for the health of it will not motivate us unless it's FUN ....Our children's and ourselves. With Gratitude for a strong healthy body able to begin Jogging at 37 a 'Hobby' that Created a NEW life for me, for my children that have run 10K races with me, AND for the Great Schools programs that SHOW WISDOM LOVE and INTELLIGNECE for us and our families. "