It’s January, which means people tend to have a renewed focus on keeping fit and exercising. Gyms stay fuller. Sidewalks in open areas fill with crowds. Group classes sell out. Many people have set goals or made resolutions to exercise more. After two weeks of watching my kids when they weren’t in their regular routine, I’m more motivated than ever to increase our family’s level of activity. As with most families, our kids have regular weekly sports that they play. I want to build up from that base and develop a whole way of life that naturally leads to physical well being.
For some reason, the word “exercise” causes an immediate negative reaction in our home. I have had to brainstorm ways to add movement into our lives without launching the “why do you torture us with HEALTHY LIVING” sequence every hour or so. Here are three of the big picture ways I sneak in more movement for my family.
- Consider Convenience
This summer, while visiting a friend, I was shocked by how often my kids would stop at the doorway pull-up bar to see how many they could do. I realized that things that invite movement (conveniently left out as a sort of mindless fidget) would be used almost without thinking. We now have an exercise ball in front of our TV that’s in high demand and a climbing rope right outside in the patio.
You also want to think about what to make inconvenient. It’s the standard idea of parking far away from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. I’ve even tried to think through how to keep items my kids might want during a day of lounging a bit further away so that they need to stand up and move at points during their relaxation.
- Build-In Habits
Obviously making exercise a habit will increase movement. Outside of that, you can build in other norms that will hopefully stick. For example, always walk if your destination is less than a mile away, that way in years to come your kids will more naturally make that decision. Or, if you’ve been inside all day, insist that everyone goes out to clear their heads with a walk or snowball fight or gardening or any other available activity.
In our family, my youngest had a physical therapy routine to do each night for several months. When he noticed how his sleep improved, we decided to keep the stretching before bed habit. While he no longer does this every night, yoga at bedtime is now a common enough occurrence that nobody finds it unusual. These lifestyle habits can help assure health movement for your kids even when you are no longer in charge.
- Re-Center Purposes
Many families, ours included, center get-togethers and events around food. Even when I meet friends without the kids, it is usually for a meal or coffee. It makes sense because everyone, especially kids on a growth spurt, needs to eat. But if you intentionally re-center meet-ups to focus on movement, you can build in a lot of extra activity. Meet friends at a park, roller skate rink, or trampoline place. Few kids are going to sit and do nothing when surrounded by fun ways to move.
You can also build family time and hobbies around activities. Take up the usual outdoor activities like hiking or biking or find more unique and involved adventures like bird watching or geocaching. Set out to find every waterfall in the county. Climb hills and mountains to stargaze away from city lights. Anything that captures the interest of your family and gets you moving.
With so many ongoing distractions pulling at our kids, it can be hard to develop a culture of active lifestyles. Hopefully, you can rethink some parts of your day to get yourself and your family moving without getting them whining!