with Heather Hawk

Healthy Planet Fitness Writer


Family Fitness


Numerous studies indicate that over sixty percent of Americans are overweight.  Children, ages 9 to 13, are getting fatter fastest.  Parents can help change these trends by altering their family’s lifestyle, building in more physical activity, and teaching wiser food choices.  Experts say physically fit children have higher academic scores, higher self-esteem and less depression.  The trick is making the transition from evenings spent in front of the television to evenings spent going on a family walk.

Bring the fun back into family fitness:

• When planning a family activity, familiarize yourself with the level of difficulty, duration and terrain, so it’s suitable for everyone in the family.

• Keep all activities lighthearted.  The goal is to be active together, not to see who wins.  Family fitness time should build everyone’s self-confidence.

• If you have a busy family, set aside a designated family fitness time (probably on the weekend).  Let each member of the family pick an activity and try a different one each week.  Everyone should participate regardless of their skill level.  This can be challenging at first, especially if you have several ages, however be patient and get creative

• If you have a wide age or fitness gap, then in addition to “family” fitness time try to take separate time with each child to be active

• Practice what you preach.  Show by example.  Children learn what they live so if you’re active and show that you enjoy being physical then your children are more likely to follow in your footsteps

• Limit time spent watching TV, videos, and playing computer games

• Use physical activity rather than food as a reward.  For example, take the whole family out in-line skating or biking rather than to a restaurant for dinner

• Take advantage of local attractions in the St. Louis area including city and state parks, The Magic House, The City Museum and Sky Zone to name a few

Getting fit can and should be synonymous with having a good time… Spring and Summer are the perfect opportunity for this transition!  It’s not too early to start thinking about signing up for summer activities. There are numerous camps around the area to suit all age groups and skill levels.  These camps not only offer the opportunity to further your child’s skills in a particular activity but they also allow your child to try a new activity.  Last summer I enrolled my daughter in a dance camp to gauge her interest…she loved it!  A brief introduction to an activity through a camp may spark a lifelong interest for your child.

The earlier you introduce your children to exercise and physical activity, the greater benefit they will receive.  Establishing exercise as a fun and regular part of your family’s lifestyle will create lifelong healthy habits for the entire family.