Is Your Family Active Enough? 10 Ways to Become More Active and More Healthy Together

We know that our diet and activity levels affect our weight and health. However, very few of us are as active as we should be, and many of our young people are virtually sedentary. The 'Obesity Epidemic' has been much in the news this week, mainly focusing on the Children's food industry and nutritional legislation. Yes, we do need to watch what our kids and young people are eating, but we also need to get them up and moving around as well. Modern life with so much car use, emphasis on academic success, and concerns about safety has led to children's activity levels plummeting. Inactive children could be heading for an adulthood plagued by health problems.

High activity levels reduce the risk of obesity, keep bones strong, condition and strengthen the heart and lungs, boost the immune system, induce healthy tiredness, release stress and frustration, and a myriad of other beneficial effects. Our children should spend an hour minimum each day in constant motion, but often this is not the case. We take the kids to ballet or swimming, as 'extra' activities, but spend the rest of the week doing very little. We need to get them more generally active every day, and give a good example by being more active ourselves.

Activity needs to be integrated into all aspects of family life to ensure that the child doesn't see it just as a hobby or worse a chore. Your child needs to make lasting habits that continue into adulthood. Active children usually grow into active adults, with greater bone density to protect against osteoporosis, lower resting heart rates, promoting good coronary health, less risk of certain cancers such as bowel cancer, and greater control of blood sugar levels; reducing the risk of diabetes. Physically these children will grow into healthier adults, but they also will benefit mentally, with better motor skills and co-ordination, increased body awareness, and greater self confidence.

The strongest threats to our children's activity levels are TV, Computers and computer games. These things all have their place, but must not become the main focus of your child's free time. Television watching has been overwhelmingly linked with obesity; delivering the double whammy of inactivity teamed with hours of advertising must-have snacks which offer high levels of fat, salt and sugar. Your child can relax, release the stresses of school and enjoy themselves outside in the garden or park or at a fitness class or sports group far more profitably.
Here are 10 ways to become more active together;

o Walk/cycle/scooter to school (I know it is obvious).

o Get a dog and walk it together, borrow one if necessary!

o Build a vegetable patch, get an allotment, or do some gardening together- put on the wellies and get muddy!

o Visit the local Pool.

o Watch out in the school holidays for events at local sports and community centers; many provide cheap activity days with a large range of sports and activities offered.

o Go for a family bike ride and arrange a fun place to stop for picnic or at a café/pub for a drink. Contact Sustrans for cycle routes and ideas.

o Go on outings that involve walking; nature or Sculpture Trails, visit National Trust Houses, go to the zoo, or wander around historic sites. Plan active family holidays; skiing, biking, beach holidays with body boarding, kite flying, surfing lessons, volley ball etc. You don't need to go far or spend a fortune; many small UK resorts offer reasonably-priced lessons to older kids and teens.

o Choose presents for children which encourage activity; bikes, scooters, pogo sticks, footballs, netball rings, roller skates, skate boards, skipping ropes, table tennis kits, badminton rackets, Hula Hoops.

o Encourage older children to develop an interest in street dance, martial arts, snowboarding, surfing or power kite flying; show them the alternative culture of activity which is fashionable as well as challenging.

o Visit local parks and open spaces with a picnic, cricket Bat, kite or Frisbee Hold a family and friends sports day in the park, with rounders, hula hoop competitions, egg and spoon and sack races, French Cricket, Kite Flying. No end of fun for everyone, and grown-ups could sneak a bottle of something nice into the picnic basket!

There are so many ways that we can become more active, even if we do not want to engage in formal sporting pursuits. Every bit of activity that we do is another step towards improved health, so get out there with family, children or friends and do something active together!

Stay healthy,


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