As parents, we’re well aware of the importance of healthy living and staying physically active. We encourage our children to play outside and join youth sports, while we may head to the gym. Physical activity is so important that we often schedule time to do it. Not often enough, however, do we consider making time to exercise as a family. While we find time to for family game or movie night, family sports are often forgotten. It may seem silly, but there are many benefits to family exercise.
1. Encourages Good Habits
We’re all familiar with the problem of childhood obesity. From keeping healthy snacks around the home to encouraging more active play, parents are working hard to keep their kids healthy. Oftentimes, that can be tiring day in and day out as you take your child to playgrounds, sports practice, or playdates. Meanwhile, family time is often sedentary time with games and movies. However, by using family time to do a physical activity together you encourage your child to exercise. Furthermore, you’re building lifelong habits. Children often carry family-time traditions into their adulthood, one of which could be family exercise. As children connect movies and games to togetherness, they will also connect physical activity to fun and community.
It also helps ingrain in children what is normal and healthy habits to keep, such as making physical activity a priority. If they see parents make family time and exercise time a priority together, they’re more likely to do the same.
2. It’s Family Bonding Time
Today, many families describe themselves as being too busy with school, work, and after-school activities. When the times come for family bonding, it often consists of movies or games to relax and unwind. However, it often doesn’t include conversation or working together as a team. Physical activity and family sports, on the other hand, foster an environment of teamwork and communication – two skills that are important to a child’s development. Whether you’re playing backyard softball or going for a hike, you’re encouraging the opportunity to converse and work together as a family.
Furthermore, it’s a greater opportunity to get to know each other. When watching a movie or playing a game, you’re often not engaging each other or watching each other’s actions. With family exercise, however, you’re paying close to attention to how each child and parent acts and reacts. You learn what motivates your child the most as well as how they work within a team. As a parent, this gives you the opportunity to encourage good behavior and fix any bad habits that may be forming as part of natural development.
3. It’s An Opportunity For Encouragement
Parents are great encouragers of education and sports, but there’s nothing like active encouragement during family time. Encouragement outside of family time can often come across too competitively, but when you’re spending time with your children it’s more positive. Furthermore, studies show that quality of family bonding and family encouragement affects child mental health and future mental health. Good family bonding paired with positive family encouragement builds confidence and self-esteem in children.
Furthermore, participation from both parents and children in activities gives children a sense of growth and ownership. This sense of ownership and ability to participate in the same activities as their parents encourage self-confidence.
4. It Builds Teamwork
Children gain more life skills at home than they do anywhere else. Teamwork may be taught and encouraged in school and sports. However, if it’s not encouraged at home, it’s not likely to remain a lifelong habit. By exercising together, you’re encouraging teamwork and working together to achieve a common goal. Not only does this help strengthen family bonds and ties, but it also helps teach the importance of goalsetting and accomplishment both as an individual and a team.
Finding The Right Family Exercise
It may be all well and good to think about exercising together as a family, but it may be difficult to get started. Finding the right physical activity that everyone has fun doing or picking something that is safe for everyone can be a challenge. Here are some tips for getting started:
- Take turns on who gets to choose the physical activity. Maybe you enjoy traditional exercise while your child wants to dance or play softball. On your light exercising day, encourage your child to follow along or turn on some music so they can dance along. Then allow your child to choose the next family physical activity.
- Staying safe and injury-free are always concerns for not only children but parents as well. Choose an activity with your child’s abilities in mind. Slow down your running to a jog or have them ride a bike alongside you. Choose a softer ball for sports.
- Start out slow. You and your children may not be reading to jump in full force into family exercise right away. If that’s the case, starting out slow with 10-minute exercises, family walks and short bike rides will be the best way to stay motivated and safe.
Family exercising can be both fun and a good opportunity for bonding. Remember to always warm-up and cool-down as a family as well as hydrate to stay safe and avoid injury.
Related: Ideas for Family Physical Activities