Getting Started With a Family Fitness Plan

Shape up together by creating a family fitness plan

family fitness plan - play together
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The first step to a fun and effective family fitness plan is a goal. Maybe you're concerned about your child's weight, or your own. Maybe you've noticed your family's habits and hobbies tend to be sedentary instead of active. Maybe you made a resolution (for the New Year, or a birthday, or back-to-school season) to change your lifestyle. Maybe you're planning an active summer vacation, or your child wants to join a sports team and needs to get in shape.

Whatever your reason, there are lots of ways to get motivated and get started on improving your family's fitness.

Creating a family fitness plan need not be complicated or overwhelming. What it really means is a new commitment to adding more activity to your life. Coming up with a plan for how to do that makes it more likely that you will succeed. (It might help to think of it as a challenge you tackle together.)

Family Fitness Plan Dos and Don'ts

Do send the message that physical activity is a fun, healthy habit that makes you feel good, not a chore to be endured. You can do this by:

  • Setting a good example. Choose action over electronics whenever you can. Walk to the store instead of driving, take the stairs, and shelve the leaf-blower in favor of a rake. Even if you're not athletic, you can move!
  • Enjoying exercise. Whether it's a vigorous kickboxing class or a leisurely walk, tell your child how you feel after you're done. Energized? Happier? Tired, but proud of what you accomplished?
  • Playing together. Kids love your attention. Take them to the playground, go outside for a game of catch, or have a spontaneous dance party.
  • Praising effort, not results. Your child won't be able to ride a two-wheeler or sink a basket on her first attempt. To fend off frustration (in both inactive and active kids), be sure to acknowledge how hard they're trying.
  • Offering positive reinforcement. If your child makes a healthy choice, notice—out loud. When he learns a new skill, record it on video and show it to friends and family.
  • Asking her to teach you. Is she a star skater or a whiz at water polo? Request a lesson! Active kids love to show off their expertise.

Don't fall prey to confidence zappers like using exercise as punishment, offering food as a reward, or using scare tactics. Instead of "If you watch too much TV, you'll get fat and sick," say, "Riding your bike helps make your legs and heart strong."

Enlist Your Family's Help with Your Plan

Incorporating small but significant changes into your daily routines can make a big difference. If they're old enough, talk to your kids about what you're doing and get their buy-in. What are their favorite healthy snacks? Which fitness class would they like to take at your local community center? What family fitness goal can you work toward together—and how might you reward yourselves?

Tailor Your Fitness Plan to Your Child's Age

While all children need daily physical activity, their interests and abilities change as they grow.

Know what your child needs now.

Stock Up on Fitness Equipment and Toys

Depending on what activities your family chooses to add to your schedule, you'll need some basic gear, such as athletic shoes, bike helmets, and the like. Toys that encourage active play are also an easy way to motivate kids to move. Tight budget? You can even make your own work-out equipment from household items!

Create Your Plan

Ready, set, go! The key now is to find fitness activities that inspire you to keep moving. Change things up often to keep from falling into a rut. Look for sports and exercises that you can do together or separately, or both; whatever works for your family. 

Look at your schedule together and try to add just a little bit of activity at a time, like 15 minutes two or three days a week. That could mean walking to school, going for a bike ride, or playing a quick backyard game. Eventually, work up to at least 150 minutes per week per family member.

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