May is the month when we can finally begin to count on the great outdoors for some comfortable temperatures. It's also the month when most students begin their summer breaks and many families take their vacations. As our schedules begin to take advantage of the longer days, it can be overwhelming to think of May as National Fitness Month. "How can I take on ONE more thing this summer?" Well don't worry, you don't have to do it alone. Here are tips to help the entire family get healthier this summer.
Engage in Group Activities
One of the benefits of exercising with your family is that it can open up a lot of possibilities for getting active that are more difficult to do on one's own. It's not impossible to get outside with a Frisbee by yourself and get a solid 20 minutes of activity, but it is a lot easier with your siblings or children outside alongside you!
Try to find something that everyone can enjoy and engage in. It might not be too much fun for the youngest to square up on the court with the high school varsity basketball star, but both of them could find a lot of fun in taking a bike ride around the neighborhood!
Get a Family Membership
When everyone's schedule is different, however, it can be very difficult to get the whole family together for an exercise at the same time. But you don't necessarily have to be at the same place at the same time to enjoy exercising together, you can just all get to the same place when it's convenient for each of you.
Most gyms and fitness centers offer incentivized rates for family sign-ups. Augusta Health's Fitness Center offers pricing that is discounted for family sign-ups. What's better is that fitness centers like our own have a wide range of opportunities to get active. Have a fish in the family? They can swim year round. Prefer to get caught up on your podcasts while you're on the elliptical? We can accommodate that, too. With a family membership comes opportunities for every member of the family to engage.
Turn Chores into Exercise
Okay, we hear you. Not every family is going to get to the gym together several times a week or hit the basketball court for a game of three-on-three. Living fit as a family doesn't mean you have to overhaul your entire lifestyle, but it may require some small changes in the way everyday tasks are tackled.
The Mayo Clinic recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week. That's just over 20 minutes a day. And the definition of moderate aerobic exercise can be pretty broad, it doesn't have to happen on a treadmill. Raking leaves for 30 minutes, gardening, or even dancing can all be considered moderate exercise. Simply encouraging the family to dance while emptying the dishwasher can be part of a smaller-scale change to get the entire family more active.
Eat Meals Together
Your family's fitness will be driven by two things: exercise and diet. And like exercise, maintaining a healthy diet can be easier when the family eats together. Part of the reason is that many single-serve portions are going to be less healthy than what can be prepared fresh. It may be quick and easy for the youngest to make a plate of frozen mini-pizzas when they get home from soccer practice, but that meal will have nowhere near the nutritional value as a salad made for the whole crew.
Preparing a large meal can be tough for a busy family, but by planning meal prep, always making enough to include leftovers, and having plenty of hands to help can alleviate that burden.
Eating as a family is also a good way to help practice portion control. Never say "finish your plate" to the kids. Simply let them finish when they are no longer hungry and note that means there's more for tomorrow.
Pack Away the Junk Food
Eating meals together isn't going to solve every family's bad eating habits, it will also likely require giving up some things that may have become staples in your household. If your go-to after-school snacks have been wrapped snack cakes and sugary breakfast cereals, then removing them may be met with resistance. Don't negotiate. Stay resolute that some changes need to be made, and be sure to highlight other changes that may be more impactful to your diet. Children will be more likely to adopt healthier eating if they see their parents setting that example.
Keep Each Other Accountable
One of the best things about committing to getting fit as a family is that you're not in it alone. Entire industries have been built around the idea that getting fit is easier to do as a group. By enlisting the family, you're tapping into the same sensibilities of CrossFit gyms, aerobics classes, and personal trainers. They can keep you accountable through encouragement and challenge you to further your fitness goals.
Augusta Health offers a range of services that can help you improve your family's fitness. Visit Augusta Health's Fitness Center or give us a call at (540) 332-5433. If you are seeking assistance or guidance on nutritional issues, start with your primary care provider. We are here to answer any questions you may have.