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How to Increase Your Family's Physical Fitness

Healthy ideas for kids and adults to get fit together.

father with children in the pool

As a parent, you are the best role model for your child. Kids often mimic what they see. And they’re fast learners. If you are active, you’ll inspire your kids to do the same.

Kids who get regular physical activity have better cardiovascular fitness and stronger bones and muscles. They have less body fat. They may even have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. Active kids are more likely to become healthy adults.

Encourage activity

Studies show that kids who feel supported by their families to be active are more likely to participate in physical activities.

Make time for activity.

  • Kids should be active for 60 minutes or more each day of the week. Most of those 60 minutes should include moderate- or vigorous-intensity activities. Include vigorous-intensity activities at least three days a week.
  • As part of that 60 or more minutes of daily activity, include activities to strengthen bones and muscles at least three days a week.
  • Remember: Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, too.

Manage screen time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following media guidelines for children:

  • Younger than 18 months: Avoid screen time, except for video chatting.
  • Ages 18 to 24 months: High-quality programming only viewed with parents or guardians.
  • Ages 2 to 5 years: Only high-quality programming one hour per day, viewed with parents or guardians.
  • Ages 6 and older: Consistent limits should be placed on amount of screen time. It shouldn’t take the place of healthy behaviors, such as physical activity and sleep.
  • Children should have screen-free times and places.
  • Screen time should be avoided during meals, family time and one hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid having a television or other electronic devices in your child’s bedroom.

Introduce your kids to variety.

  • Encourage them to try new activities. They could join a sports team or class.
  • Show them activities they can do in any weather. Dancing, for example. Or mall walking.
  • Help them find non-competitive activities. Try jump rope. Or tag. Or bike riding.

Make it a family affair

Get active with your kids!

  • Sign family members up for low-cost recreation programs and sports leagues.
  • Celebrate with activity. For birthdays and other special events, get active. Go hiking, have a dance contest or play volleyball.
  • Keep a family activity log on the refrigerator. This can help inspire everyone to stay active.
  • Give gifts that encourage activity. Give balls. Or jump ropes. Or kites.
  • Skip driving. Bike or walk as a family, when possible.
  • Play and exercise together as often as you can.

Before starting or increasing regular physical activity, talk with your doctor about the right levels for your family, especially if you or a child have a medical condition or are physically inactive.

By Lucy M. Casale, Contributing Writer

Sources
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans. Accessed: November 7, 2016.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Make family time active time. Accessed: November 7, 2016.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Media and young minds. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5): DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2591. Accessed: November 7, 2016.
LetsMove.gov. Active families. Accessed: November 7, 2016.

Updated November 8, 2016