By Christine Zellers, MPP, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences
Physical Activity has many benefits from preventing chronic disease to mood improvement, reducing stress and even improving sleep. Yet many Americans fall short of daily exercise recommendations. The USDA recommends 60 minutes of daily activity for children and 150 minutes per week for adults. Parents who exercise set a good example for living a healthy style and exercising together teaches children to enjoy moving for a lifetime.
When it comes to exercising making it fun will make movement easy. Enjoy a peaceful walk and make that a go to exercise. Biking, swimming and hiking are all good examples of other activities that can be fun and promote overall health. Including the entire family will benefit everyone and doing something that is enjoyable makes it more inviting.
According to an article in “BMC Public Health” owning a dog provides the owner on average 22 minutes more walking time a day than a non-pet owner. Take the kids along when walking the dog. Walking will increase the entire family’s cardiovascular workout each day and supports a healthy bone structure in both adults and children. Dog owner or not, walking is a good way to increase daily exercise and is something the entire family can enjoy.
Many cities and towns have bike lanes that make family riding safer. Riding bikes can produce aerobic exercise and children should participate in vigorous to intense aerobic activity three times a week meaning they’re breathing hard and their hearts are pumping. Teach children bicycle safety and exercise by example.
There are many new apps and fitness trackers that record how far the family goes and it is a fun way to stay motivated. After a walk or hike have children record the distance traveled. Set a goal to walk to a special destination like a favorite vacation spot by calculating recorded distances. Tracking daily distance creates a goal and provides something fun to do together.
During the stay at home order people are finding creative ways to exercise since gyms are closed. Now is a good time to include the children in that creative workout plan. Many families have sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, hula hoops or balls lying around, combine these playtime favorites and use them to create an obstacle course. An obstacle course can include exercises to build muscle with your body’s own resistance, like pushups or planks. In addition to the 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic exercise Adults require each week they should have two days that include muscle strengthening activity.
Make an at home parade by grabbing some pots and pans and wooden spoons, add some spins and make some good old fashion noise. If your family is musically inclined add your real instruments in. Dancing incorporates movement and music and gets the family moving. Music lifts spirts and moving to music is an added benefit.
No matter how you move it is important to find time each day to be active. Discover what is fun and take turns choosing an activity the whole family can do together to create a lifetime of health.
For more wellness information from Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Family Community Health Sciences Department, visit: njaes.rutgers.edu/fchs