Yeah, yeah — exercise is important. So is toting your kids around to school, staying on top of your aging parents’ health, getting dinner on the table, and being your spouse’s personal calendar alert. You’ll squeeze it in at some point, right?
Exercise may not be at the top of your list, but it should be high up there. When other family commitments end up becoming top priority, you lose out on the benefits of staying active — and so does your family.
- Exercise can make you more patient by reducing stress and improving your mood.
- Exercise can make learning easier by sharpening your thinking and releasing chemicals that help your brain function.
- Exercise can make you sleep better — and longer.
- Exercise can improve your sex drive.
- Exercise can make you live longer by preventing diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
5 Surprising Benefits of Exercise
Growing children and teenagers need about 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Adults need about 150 minutes per week (or a little over 20 minutes a day).
That may sound like a lot, but a little bit of activity throughout the day can add up.
Finding time to incorporate exercise into a busy routine can be challenging for everyone in your family. However, if you make exercise a family activity, you can all stay healthy while spending time together and having fun.
It’s important to choose activities that are safe for the whole family from young children to adults. Here are three safe, family-friendly ways to exercise — and help your family move toward a healthier lifestyle.
1. Go on walks, runs, or bike rides — or change it up!
The easiest way to get your heart rate up is simple — get moving. Taking a nice family walk after dinner is a great start, but there are plenty of other activities that you can do around the neighborhood, such as running, biking, or even scootering.
If you have young children, bring a stroller or wagon along so they can take breaks. For your teenagers, let them bike ahead and wait for you at busy roads. If you want to make your own workout a little more challenging, run alongside your smaller children as they bike or scoot their way down the sidewalk.
For an added component that’s both good for you and generous, sign everyone up for a charity race.
How to Stay Safe During Physical Exercise
- Warm-up first. Your muscles are cooler and tighter when you’re not active, so to prevent an injury warm up with a short walk.
- Stay hydrated. Your body is 70 percent water — and it’s important to keep it that way. Children need six 8-ounce glasses of water every day, but they need an extra 8 ounces for every 30 minutes of strenuous activity. Adults need between 11 and 16 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
- Stretch after your workout to prevent injuries. A good rule of thumb is to stretch for the length of two to three of your favorite songs.
2. Have a family sports night.
If your family has a competitive side, head to the court or the field. Some activity ideas include:
- Sports such as tennis, baseball, soccer, or kickball
- Contests such as jump rope, hula hoop, hopscotch, or relay races
- Indoor activities such as bowling, freeze tag, or miniature golf
Change up the routine so no one gets bored. You can even try switching the teams each week — family vs. family, parents vs. children, or even play against your neighbors.
How to Stay Safe Playing Sports
- Make sure everyone wears the correct — and properly fitting — equipment, such as pads, helmets, mouthpieces, protective cups, and eyewear.
- Keep everyone safe by enforcing rules against dangerous moves, such as tackling, diving headfirst, or colliding with another person.
- If someone gets injured, have them sit out to recover. If the pain doesn’t go away or there is tenderness over a bone, see your health care provider. Playing through the pain often leads to further injury.
3. Do work around the house — and in the yard.
Exercise tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list below chores, such as vacuuming and mowing the lawn. If you find yourself with a growing list of things to get done around the house, it may be time to start a Saturday morning cleaning routine. Get the whole family involved.
Chores around the house that can count toward your family’s exercise include:
- Deep cleaning, such as washing the windows, vacuuming, shampooing the carpet, or cleaning out your overflowing closets
- Yard work, which requires plenty of lifting and bending, which is great for your strength and flexibility
- Other odd jobs, such as washing the car, bathing the dog, or giving one of your bedrooms a fresh coat of paint
Cleaning doesn’t have to be boring. You can make a game out of it, have your children create a playlist for background music, or reward your family with a heart-healthy treat after the cleaning is done. Remember — the goal is to get moving, even for a little bit.
How to Stay Safe During House Work
- If you need to lift a heavy object, lift using your leg muscles and bend at your knees — not at your waist. Younger children should get help from an older sibling or parent to avoid an injury.
- Make sure to stretch after any activities that require a lot of lifting and bending, such as gardening, yard work, or painting.
- Stay hydrated before, during, and after physical activity. Make sure everyone is equipped with a water bottle, and take water breaks as necessary.
Stick to Your Plan
Setting aside time for exercise is important for your family’s well-being, but there will be days you just can’t find the time. However, don’t give up on exercise altogether. A few minutes here and there is better than nothing at all. Walk to close destinations, take the stairs, and do small exercises such as calf raises or squats when you have a few minutes to spare.
Figure out what physical activities work for your family. Then, get into a routine, and stick to it. If you need to reschedule your family’s physical activity time, that’s OK. Exercise will eventually become a priority — and there’s no time like the present to get moving.
Got questions about finding safe, family-friendly workouts? Call (785) 270-4440 to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider or (785) 270-8880 to schedule an appointment at Cotton O’Neil Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.