Exercise for Family Well-Being

biking with the familyGlorious summer weather makes it easy to get out in the yard, play on the beach, take a hike or go for a run. Back in the day, when I was a kid, we spent hours playing badminton, croquet, and dodge ball in the back yard with my parents. Those hours with my family are some of my most wonderful memories.  

But once the cooler autumn winds begin to blow and school is back in session, families often to spend more time inside – and inactive. That inactivity can lead to health woes for parents and children.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest that children and teens be physically active for at least 60 minutes on most days. For children, the 60 minutes of activity can be done in smaller chunks of time over the day. 

Autumn doesn’t have to drive families indoors. In fact, it’s a perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors in Vermont. The temperatures are more moderate than during the summer, the sun still shines into early evening, and the air is light. Activities like hiking, biking, tennis, apple-picking, running, and team sports can continue throughout autumn.

If parents want to keep their active summer lifestyle going and build in a model of lifelong healthy lifestyles, a “back to basics” approach can help: balanced nutrition, exercise, and recuperation, which includes rest, sleep and recreation or fun. These principles are tried and true for physical and mental well-being and sound stress management for all ages.

I suggest holding a group brainstorming session about scheduling certain times for fun outdoor family activities. Make sure you book all activities into each family member’s calendar. Agree upon a meeting spot, maybe the backyard, to convene. Everyone can set their alarm on their cell phone/computer calendar to remind them to “Get Moving.” You can even have each family member take turns leading the actual event or type of activity and get “the ball rolling” on the specific day and time agreed upon.

Implementing regular walking, biking, running, yoga or any other active lifestyle habits is key to managing stress, increasing strength, flexibility, productivity and performance both at home, work or school no matter your age. The truth is, you need to stay active for health – and so do your children. Badminton, anyone?

Evelyn Smith, MA LCMHC, CTTS-M, is an EFAP Counselor & Tobacco Treatment Specialist on the Community Health Team at Fletcher Allen Health Care.