10 Tips for Getting Fit as a Family

There seems to be constant buzz about how little time busy families spend together. Even during summertime, between work, screens, music, sports, and other commitments, families stay on the go.

According to “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for Healthier America” survey released in 2015, some 78 million Americans are obese, which puts them at an increased risk of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. 

In 2018, the adult obesity rate was at or above 35% in seven states and at least 30% in 29 states - but in 1980, no state had an adult obesity rate above 15 percent. Among children and teenagers, 31.8 percent were overweight or obese and nearly 17 percent were obese, including 5 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 and 6.5 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 19 who were severely obese. 

"In order to build a national Culture of Health, we must help all children, no matter who they are or where they live, grow up at a healthy weight," said former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "We know that when we take comprehensive steps to help families be more active and eat healthier foods, we can see progress."

Regular exercise, adequate rest and healthy eating can be the difference in a family that lives, plays, learns and works well together and one that does not. 

“Research shows that children need regular exercise to build strong bones and muscles,” says Teresa Wade, Health and Fitness Director at the Sports Barn. “Exercise also helps children sleep well at night and stay alert during the day. Habits such as these, established in childhood, help adolescents maintain healthy weight despite the hormonal changes and social influences that can lead to overeating. Active children are more likely to become fit adults.”

Getting your family in shape does not have to be costly, but it does require you to move away from the screens and do something. Here are some suggestions for busy families who want to get and stay active during the summer months.

  • Schedule a regular time throughout the week for physical activity. 
  • Take turns selecting a weekly family activity. 
  • Start a log of daily fitness activities for each family member. 
  • Adapt all activities to suit those with special needs and preferences. 
  • Help everyone find something active that makes them feel successful. 
  • Buy equipment or toys that promote physical activity.
  • Discover what free and low-cost physical activity spots are nearby (park, bike trail, hiking trail, tennis court, swimming pool, etc.). 
  • Limit screen-time.
  • Use physical activity as a reward instead of food (e.g. Family goes skating). 
  • Emphasize the importance of having fun and learning. Avoid a push "to win." 

“I encourage families to slow down a bit, schedule time in your week to be active together - actually pencil your family into your planner,” Wade says. “If you wait for it to happen, it isn’t going to happen. Believe it or not, exercise can be fun. Start slowly with something like walking or biking in the neighborhood. When my grandchildren are with me, we often take a walk around the block at night before we go to bed. It is a wind-down time and helps us connect before the end of the day.”

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 31, 2019.