Phones Down, It's Family Time

Published on 03/21/2018

  • Phones Down, It's Family Time

A few Sundays ago, my husband and I were finishing up a long hike in South Mountain. We were coming down Telegraph Pass trail, headed back to the Desert Foothills Trailhead when we came upon a mom and a young girl, no more than 4 or 5 years old. As we got closer and said, “hi” to them, the little girl held up her brightly-colored, plastic trash grabber. She proudly told us, “I am picking up garbage.”

“That’s wonderful,” we told her. “Thank you for taking care of our beautiful trails!”

The mom added, smiling, “I don’t think we are covering many miles, but at least she is outdoors and learning what it means to be a good citizen.”

Days later, I was still thinking about that little girl and how that mom was instilling in her an important life lesson combined with physical activity. She was also establishing lifelong habits for her daughter. By connecting physical activity with thoughts of togetherness and fun, she was guiding her toward furthering those beliefs as she grows.

Another benefit of getting your family involved in your own healthy lifestyle is the meaningful bonding it creates. Going to see a movie or watching TV certainly has its place, but when you think about it, not much conversation takes place during those activities. With a physical activity, however, there’s no one else to talk to but each other.

The first step in getting the entire household to exercise is to set goals as a family. Sit down and discuss activities that each member of your family enjoys. Does someone like to play basketball? Does someone else like to jump rope or hula-hoop? Does mom like to walk the dog? Is dad the runner in the family? Be sure to make the goals specific and achievable. While “exercise more” is a great idea, “take the dog for a 30-minute walk” is more specific and easier to achieve.

The second step, and probably the hardest to do, is to schedule time for family physical activity. Start by setting aside at least three 30-minute time slots each week for the chosen activities. Choose a time when everyone is most likely to stick to the schedule, like before dinner. Write the activities on a calendar and hang it on the refrigerator or another location where the whole family can see it. Remember to celebrate achievements, like not missing an exercise session for an entire month, and keep the momentum strong by inviting friends, neighbors and relatives to join you in your physical activities.

Now we all know runners are stubborn, myself included. But keep in mind, getting your family moving does not mean they need to go for a 5-mile run. There are no rules to the activities that your family chooses. Playing a game of tag, dancing to music or evening getting the family involved in household chores, like vacuuming and yard work, will get their hearts beating faster. Other ideas include walking to the grocery store or parking at the far end of the parking lot and having your kids count the number of steps to reach your destination. You can even write that number down and try to park even farther away on your next trip.

While you may never get your family to embrace running, doing any type of exercise with your family gives you the chance to get outside, breathe some fresh air and really get to know the people you spend each and every day with. Experiment until you find the activities that make your family happy and then run with them!