Health habits begin at home. As your kids embark on a new school year, you may be racking your brain to find the time to cook dinner and clean house, not to mention stay on top of your own schedule! So how are you supposed to squeeze in time for health and exercise as a family?

The Benefits of Exercise for the Whole Family

While childhood obesity may not be the most fun subject to discuss, it is a rapidly growing epidemic in the US. Children that are obese are more likely healthto have a high risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Childhood obesity is also linked to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and type II diabetes. On top of that, children who are overweight often struggle with respiratory issues that cause sleep apnea and asthma.

It would only make sense that these same overweight kids are likely to be overweight as adults, increasing their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Fortunately, you can protect your kids’ health and stop a number of problems before they start by teaching your children the value of staying active.

Many kids are totally opposed to exercise, especially if they have the impression that they have to hop on a treadmill or go for a bike ride for an allotted amount of time. But the key to staying fit as a family is to think outside of the box and come up with creative ways to stay active that don’t feel like a rigorous exercise routine.

Once you show your children the value of exercise, it will become a part of their everyday life. It will make it easy for them to maintain a healthy weight and prevent the risk of disease in the future.

Here are a few simple tips to use to encourage your family to get active:

  1. Start small with an exercise video at home. If your kids aren’t used to exercising, then they may not want to go for a run or bike ride outdoors right away. But you can get them interested in getting active by buying exercise videos that the whole family will enjoy or even investing in a device like the Kinect that allows you to play interactive video games and use virtual workout programs. If your whole family loves to dance, then you can try a dance style workout video like Zumba to keep them active and interested.
  2. Try a healthy competition. If your children have a reason to get active, then exercise won’t feel like a chore. You can join a family softball league or even start your own competition at home to see who can run or bike the fastest over a short distance. Otherwise, you can get your entire family motivated by signing up to run or walk for a good cause to support a charity that you are interested in.
  3. Make exercise and healthy eating easy. If you have healthy snacks on hand instead of processed foods, it will be easy for your children to make healthy choices. You can also lead by example by asking your family to go on a bike ride or walk together after dinner, giving your kids the opportunity to get active and spend time together at the same time. The point is to make exercise look attractive and enticing. If exercise is seen as a positive, social experience, then your kids will be more likely to develop healthy habits that will stick with them well into the future.
  4. Try something new together. Although trying a new activity may be intimidating at first, mastering a new skill will build confidence and help your family to burn calories simultaneously. Try to bring more variety to traditional exercise by taking your kids horseback riding, bowling, miniature golfing, or even to a salsa dance class to keep them entertained. These types of new activities will benefit every member of the family and will also help to build confidence as your kids learn new things.
  5. Consider getting a pet. If your family has been thinking about getting a dog for some time, this may be the perfect opportunity to do so. Kids will be more likely to go outside and play with a dog in the yard to stay active, and you can also walk your dog as a family in the evenings to burn calories after dinner. Of course, your kids may complain about walking the dog at first. But if they can take their scooter, skates, or bike along, then a family walk will be much more fun.

Although exercising as a family will definitely benefit your health, the payoffs extend much, much farther. Kids that are active and play sports often perform better academically and have good social skills. Becoming a part of a sports team will also make your kids more likely to steer clear of drugs and alcohol and even smoking. If your teens are already smoking, joining a sports team will make them more likely to quit.

Regular physical activity will help kids to reduce stress levels, improve confidence, and focus better at school. Experts recommend that children get a minimum of one hour of physical activity per day, which can be achieved by spending time with your kids outside as a family instead of watching TV or playing video games.

Exercise More, Benefit the Environment

Last but not least, consider squeezing exercise in whenever possible to go green. If you live close to your children’s school, then you can walk or bicycle to school instead of driving. This will benefit the environment first of all, and it will also give you more time to spend with your kids on the way to and from school if your schedule permits. When spending time together as a family on the weekend, you can also opt to walk to the grocery store instead of driving to squeeze in even more exercise while running errands.

As a parent, you’ll be saving money on ever-increasing gas prices and reducing your carbon footprint. And as a family, you’ll be able to spend more time together and teach your kids healthy habits. Win-win!

healthBethany Ramos is an expert health writer who is passionate about nutrition and fitness. Please visit her HGH website for more information on how to naturally improve your health.