Physical Fitness for the Family
Healthy ideas for kids and adults to get fit together.
As a parent, you are the best role model for your child. Kids often mimic what they see. And they’re fast learners. So, if you’re active, you’ll inspire your kids to be active too.
Kids who get regular physical activity have better heart and lung fitness than kids who are inactive. They have stronger bones and muscles. They have less body fat. They may even have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. On top of this, active kids are more likely to become healthy adults.
Studies show that kids who feel supported by their families to be active are more likely to take part in physical activities.
Make time for activity.
Kids should be physically active for 60 minutes or more every day. * Use that time for these three types of physical activity:
- Aerobic activities. Most of this time they should do things that get their hearts beating a little faster, like walking or running. And at least 3 days a week, encourage them to aerobic activity that gets them to breathe faster and their heart to pound even harder.
- Muscle-strengthening. At least 3 days a week, as part of the 60 minutes, include activities like climbing or pushups.
- Bone-strengthening. Encourage activities with jumping or running at least 3 days a week as well.
Manage screen time.
Create a plan for your family that limits screen time each day on things like TV, videos, computers, and video games. Talk to your kids and establish screen-free times and places. You could use some of this free time for more physical activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends media guidelines for children that can help you manage screen time:
- Younger than 18 months: Avoid screen time, except for video chatting.
- Ages 18 to 24 months: Choose high-quality programming in small amounts and watch with your children.
- Ages 2 to 5 years: Limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming and watch with your children.
- Ages 6 and older: Establish consistent limits on screen time. It shouldn’t take the place of healthy behaviors, such as physical activity and sleep.
Introduce your kids to fun and variety.
- Help them find activities they’ll enjoy. What are their interests and personality? The more they enjoy it, the more likely they are to continue.
- Encourage them to try new activities. They could join a sports team or class.
- When the weather is bad, show them activities they can do inside. 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! Remember, adults also need aerobic activity – at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) each week. ** Here are some things to try to get the whole family moving together:
- 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.
*If your child has a medical condition, talk with their doctor before increasing your child’s activity level. Your doctor can help to determine the type and amount of activities that may be best for your child and their medical condition.
** Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.
By Lucy M. Casale, Contributing Writer
American Academy of Pediatrics. Media and young minds. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5): DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2591. Published: November 1, 2016. Accessed June 24, 2021.
American Academy of Pediatrics. 11 ways to encourage your child to be physically active. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do children need? Accessed June 25, 2021.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Published 2018. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Updated June 25, 2021