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How to Get Your Kids Fit

Get-Fit Guy and special guest Mighty Mommy explain how your activity levels affect your kids. Plus, tips on how to increase their physical activity and motivation to exercise. 

By
Ben Greenfield,
July 24, 2012
Episode #099

How to Get Your Kids Fit

In a recent Get-Fit Guy newsletter, I mentioned a study done by researchers from the University of Essex which found that two-thirds of children think their parents do almost no physical activity!

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In the study, researchers asked schoolchildren to rate how active they thought their parents were, then they had those children complete a test of their own cardio fitness. In this case, the test was a “bleep” test, which is a common way to measure basic fitness levels. What researchers found was that the likelihood of the child having greater fitness based on their performance on the bleep test was directly influenced by how active that child perceived their parents to be.

How Parental Fitness Affects Kids

In other words, kids who were under the impression that their parents didn’t exercise very much, did not appear themselves to be exercising very much. This resulted in a dramatic decrease in their fitness compared to peers who rated their parents more highly in the physical fitness department.

It’s important to realize that the children’s ratings were not based on whether they though their parent had “big muscles,” a “skinny waist,” a “six pack” or any other aesthetic value, but rather simply based on whether or not that parent did any physical activity.

So how can you act on this information to get your kids more fit?

What Can You Do?

First of all, you need to be the example, whether that means hitting the gym a few times a week, going on frequent walks, or avoiding long periods of sitting on the couch watching TV. But unfortunately, your kids may not take significant notice if your physical activity involves a 5am workout while they’re asleep or a lunchtime run while they’re at school.

So you need to take things one step further and make your activities readily apparent to your family. For example, at breakfast or dinner, you can tell your kids about your workouts or share a story from the gym. You can announce when you go for a walk or a run or you can try to keep some home fitness equipment in plain sight around the house or in a dedicated fitness room, which you frequent regularly. Just keeping a gym room isn’t enough—you actually have to use it.

What else can you do? Well, today, we’re very lucky to have a special guest to help us figure that out. Parenting expert Mighty Mommy, aka Cheryl Butler, is here to give us 3 fun fitness strategies to keep our families active:

*** A Mighty Mommy Exclusive! ***

Thanks Ben. I’m thrilled to be here to tell Get-Fit Guy listeners about the easy ways that I keep my own brood of 8 kids moving instead of sitting, attached to their electronics:

Tip #1: Play “Notice the Neighborhood”

We have two dogs that absolutely love to go for walks. This summer we started playing a fun game that we call “Notice the Neighborhood” while we walk them. Before we head off for the walk, I print a list of 10 random items I want my kids to find during the walk. For instance, yesterday I asked my boys to find one fruit tree, a house with a birdbath, a Chevrolet vehicle in the driveway, a house with green shutters, and many other items. We had to complete the list within 45 minutes so this made us walk at a brisk pace. There are two big hills in our neighborhood, which added a bit of intensity. But because the kids were excitedly trying to find the items on the list—they hardly noticed we were working out. They have enjoyed this so much that they actually request the walks, and the dogs are benefiting, too!

Tip #2: Get Pedometers for Everyone in the House

When pedometers became all the rage a few years ago, I simply had to have one! I was amazed to see that getting in the recommended 10,000 steps per day was always much easier when I was wearing the pedometer regularly because I had a good sense of how much I was actually moving. My kids noticed I was wearing one and they would ask me throughout the day to share with them how many steps I had taken. I finally decided that they should be keeping track of their own steps, not mine, so I got each of them a pedometer and boy, were they ever thrilled! They even got competitive with one another towards the end of the day to see who was going to reach 10,000 steps first. This was a great way to keep them in tune to how active they were and the healthy competition encouraged more activity.

Tip #3: Yard Tournaments

One of my favorite childhood memories is of spending hours in our family backyard playing kick ball, whiffle ball, and freeze tag. My siblings and I played outdoors for hours only stopping for a quick snack or bathroom break. I’ve taken that experience to heart and nowadays, my family has yard tournaments with great games like badminton, volleyball, Frisbee, and even hula hooping. I buy silly prizes from the dollar store and award the winners. Times spent in your own backyard with family can truly be the most memorable, and there is no end to the activities the whole family can participate in, especially when these games are enjoyed on a regular basis. We hold our yard tournaments throughout the entire year, winter included. If you don’t have a backyard, don’t worry, you can do the same in your local park or playground. My hope is that someday my children will pass this active tradition down to their own families!

***

Thanks Cheryl. These are great ideas! I’ll definitely try some of these out on my kids this week.

At our house, I make it goal at least once a week to take my 4-year-old twin boys on a stroller walk or run and play at least an hour of some sport with them – whether it’s tennis, basketball, baseball, or even backyard wrestling. I also announce loudly whenever I’m stepping out the door for a run or bike ride, and when I bring them to the gym for kid care, I tell them what I’m headed upstairs to do (“Daddy’s going to go run on the treadmill and lift weights, and I’ll come back in an hour.”)

No matter their age, a big step to getting your kids fit is to be an example yourself. Research shows, it makes a much bigger difference than you may think!

If you have more questions about how to get your kids fit, then email me at getfitguy@quickanddirtytips.com or visit Facebook.com/GetFitGuy! And check out Mighty Mommy's savvy tips for happy parenting.

Family Walking and Family Hiking images from Shutterstock

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