How to Be More Active as a Family (and Less Sedentary)
Aug 23, 2021 11:43 AM EDT
There are a lot of ways you can be less sedentary and more active as a family, both indoors and outdoors. If you live in a place where the weather isn't conducive to outdoor walking or running, or maybe you live in an area with a lot of traffic congestion that makes it hard for pedestrians, it's okay.
You can be more active in your own home and encourage your children and the entire family to get on board.
The following are some things to know about the risks of being sedentary for your family and how you can overcome these.
The Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle
There are tremendous risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, no matter your age.
According to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have gone up 83% since 1950. Less than 20% of all jobs in the U.S. workforce are considered physically active, and all the time we spend sitting at our computers or desks is taking a severe toll on our health and well-being.
Long periods of sitting, even when adjusted for other physical activity, are associated with adverse health outcomes, like a higher risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
When you're sedentary, it can increase your risk of dying from not only heart disease but many other conditions.
We tend to think that if we work out for 30 minutes a day, that's enough, but it matters what we're doing with the other 23.5 hours in our day.
Even if you're very physically active during your workouts, you can still be a sedentary person.
That doesn't mean your exercise isn't beneficial. For example, high levels of activity can combat the risks of being sedentary all the time. However, you should be doing more.
For children, there are similar troubling trends we see as their sedentary lifestyles become more common
Discretionary screen time has gone up 50% in less than a decade. By the age of 8, the average child will have spent almost one full year of 24 hours a day on devices with screens.
The risks of being sedentary and excessive screen time in children include higher levels of body fat and body dissatisfaction, eating issues, and depression.
Undoubtedly the pandemic has increased so many of these issues for children and adults.
As a parent, you can do certain things to be less sedentary in your own life and help your children to do the same so you can all benefit.
Plant a Garden
One of the best ways to get more active as a family is to plant a garden. If you live in a big city or urban area, you can do container gardening and get some benefits.
When you plant a garden, it not only gives your family a way to be more active and get outdoors together, but you can encourage healthy eating habits. It's also a valuable way to help your children understand where food comes from.
The garden can become a chore for them, so they learn how to be responsible for something.
Even with just a tiny garden, you'll have to ensure it's watered and weeded, which is already integrating more activity into your daily routine.
Scheduling playtime might sound counterintuitive, but when we schedule anything, we're more likely to stick with it.
Set a time each day where your family turns off all the screens and instead plays in whatever way works for you.
Maybe you spend that time outside, or you might have a dance party in the living room.
You can also play games or do anything that's going to have you moving.
Have Weekend Adventures
During the week, it can be harder to find time to do things like getting outside, so set aside specific time every weekend where you can have an adventure. Get out of the house, leave the screens behind and explore where you live.
Park As Far Away As You Can
It sounds so silly and basic to say that you should park far away from wherever you go, but the reality is, these little things are ways to separate a sedentary life from one that's healthy and active.
No matter where you go with your family, get in the parking spot that's as far from the door as possible.
Consider how much time you spend in your car circling to try and snag one of those spots that are close to the door. This is more time you're sitting, when you could be out, walking.
Little things do add up to make big differences in your health and the health of your family.
Maybe you also take a lap around the parking lot as well, just to get a few more steps in.
Get Everyone An Activity Tracker
Having an activity tracker that shows you how many steps you're taking every day can be a gamechanger. So many of us are far more sedentary than we even realize.
Activity trackers don't have to be expensive, and they make plenty of kid-friendly options. Get one for everyone in the family and set fun, achievable goals.
You might even be able to have friendly competitions to see who can get the most steps in or burn the most calories.
Involve Everyone in the Chores
One reason, outside of less sedentary jobs that people used to move more and were less overweight was because of household chores. They didn't outsource the work as often, and fewer things were automated.
Chores burn calories, get you moving, and they help your kids learn about responsibility.
If you want your family to move more, then assign weekly chores to everyone. You can find age-appropriate options for your children and it's going to take some of the household tasks off your plate as well, so it's a win-win.
We tend to think that being more active is all-or-nothing, but seemingly tiny changes will all add up for a healthier, happier family.