When we think of family time it’s usually a vision of everyone curled up on the sofa, watching a film together or sharing a meal. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and it is really important to enjoy these moments, how many of us actually have family time where we exercise together?
Exercise is so important for the whole family; it not only improves our health but it increases our self-confidence, reduces anxiety for both children and adults, improves our overall mood, helps us to sleep better (a good way of wearing a very active child out!) improves our concentration levels which can enhance both school and work productivity and teaches children great lifelong habits from an early age.
It is easy to associate fun and togetherness with sedentary moments but, encouraging this association through being active will help create a family tradition that will be passed on through the generations. Children who have active parents are far more likely to be active themselves, they learn more life skills at home than they do anywhere else. School does of course, offer physical activity but some children don’t enjoy these sessions for various reasons and find exercising with family more appealing.
Families have the opportunity to bond, to see what motivates them and see how they all react to different situations and it helps us to all learn more about each other and encourage any fears and praise success.
But what activities can you do? Obviously, there is a miss-match in sizes, abilities, likes and dislikes in a family group but, you can take it in turn to choose something. Adults will then get a chance to try something new, or, it will take them back to their own childhood to an activity that they’d long forgotten about! Children will learn a new sport, new skills and new challenges.
Activity in children is the blueprint for adult health; Jumping, skipping, running, hopscotch and a variety of ball games all help to strengthen bones. Being outside in the sunshine provides vitamin D, even on a cloudy day and the outdoors surrounded by nature is great for mindfulness in all ages. This can also lead to healthy conversations on eating well, the importance of nourishing the body with a variety of carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals every day to ensure that they have the energy to keep active and improve in sport.
Younger children’s respiratory and circulatory systems aren’t fully developed which means that they are better suited to short, sharp activities rather than long-distance runs, but they can accompany you on a bike while you go for a jog. The younger children will need more rest breaks and regular sips of water as they can become dehydrated quickly.
Whatever you choose to do, make it fun, no pressure or criticisms if they are not able to do the activity. Try to encourage positivity so that they build their confidence and are happy to give things a try. How many adults loathe any form of physical activity as a result of a bad experience as a child? The misery of cross country running in the pouring rain or the humiliation of doing PE in your underwear when you forget your kit is enough to scar people for life! It is so important to make these sessions something that the family look forward to.
Oh, and don’t be upset if your five-year-old beats you at tennis, take it on the chin and say well done, another lesson learned….!