[Photo credit: Tony Alter]
If you’re like me, you find it really hard to find time to exercise. Unless you become intentional about it, it simply doesn’t happen. I’m very lucky that I can still be active chasing after four little kids and my work is fairly active. However, that often doesn’t feel like enough. After years of running around the track until I felt spent, chasing the kids makes me tired, but it doesn’t make me feel like I’ve actually exercised.
Despite all my best efforts to enjoy regular, moderately vigorous exercise; the sort of exercise you need to keep your body healthy, I haven’t always been able to achieve it. The need and desire to fulfill what I consider my most important values, family and career, take precedence. As health sits as my third most important value, it often gets dropped off when the other two get busy.
Now; I’m big on doing one thing at a time and doing that well. Less time that is of quality is far more valuable than more time spent multi-tasking. However, the behaviour of children is most affected by what they see. Sitting in front of the TV and telling your kids to go out and play is never going to work. Kids might follow the instruction based on what positive or negative consequence you attach to it, but they’ll never repeat that behaviour long-term. Kids will ultimately repeat the behaviour they see.
If there’s ever a time to do two things at once, it’s exercising and spending time with your kids. There’s no better example of health than to model healthy habits yourself. If you’re struggling to find the time to exercise because of family commitments, take your family with you. Here are 5 ways to model healthy exercise habits:
Swimming doesn’t have to be at the pool. If you live near a lake or ocean, these can be great alternatives that cost nothing and have the added benefit of being in the great outdoors, where kids can explore and discover nature. Obviously you need to watch your kids carefully around water. If you’re going to swim laps, go with your partner or a friend so there is someone watching them while you’re swimming. When you finish, spend time with your kids playing. There are many physiological benefits to being in the water, starting with your heart and lungs.
- Running and riding
Running and riding can be treated equally for the purpose of this topic. If you’re going to the track to do sprints, intervals or laps, take your kids to watch and encourage them to have a run or ride. A race against you is a fun way to finish. Make sure they know the rules of the track, which are the same as a road. Just like a road, the track can be a dangerous place if you don’t know the rules and etiquetes. If you’re going for a long run or ride, there are heaps of carts now on the market. Running carts, riding carts, and even carts that convert for both running and riding. The rise of the cart runner is gaining momentum in many fun runs. Just look at a Saturday morning Parkrun.
Unfortunately most gyms don’t allow anyone under the age of 16 in their workout areas. However, many gyms do have a child care facility. Kids can have fun doing activities while you workout. Even though your kids might not be with you while you exercise, they’re still learning healthy habits by going along. After the session, ask them what they did and make sure you talk about what you did as well. Tell them how much fun you had. If you didn’t have fun, find another type of exercise.
- Boot camps
Most boot camps will allow you to bring your kids. Just ask. Some boot camps are even targeted to families. They are designed to build family cohesion by having the parents and kids workout together. Mums and bubs classes are a very popular way to get back into exercise. Plus, you can model the benefits of exercise from the get-go. Most will allow dads and bubs too.
If you play a sport, take your kids with you to watch you play. If your sport is serious and you train for it, take your kids to training and encourage them to join in what they can. Unstructured play on the sidelines is great too though. If your sport is more social and your kids are old enough, get them to help out with officiating. The added skills they’ll develop, such as leadership, will serve them in every area of their life and teach them about altruism.
Kids learn most from observation. They are most likely to develop the habits they see you modelling. Model good habits to create positive habits in your kids.
What other physical activities do you include your kids in?
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