Although sponsored recreational opportunities, school sports and parks create the setting for families to engage in physical activities, the family itself is the most important social influence on physical activity. When the family members engage in physical activity, this approach helps instill a lifelong habit of motivation for physical involvement. Research indicates that children of two active parents were 5.8 times more apt to engage in physical activity on a regular basis. Recent data indicate that only 35 percent of girls under the age of 11 and 49 percent of boys under the age of 11 meet the recommended guideline of one hour of physical activity a day. As a result, the nation has seen an increase in obesity among adolescents. By utilizing the family as a resource for physical activity, this issue can be addressed.
Four Types of Family Physical Activity Promotion Solutions
Shared and goal-directed physical activity programs like On the Move have been developed to engage all family members with the goal to increase physical activity. These activity programs help parents understand their children’s physical activity needs. Participants identify their baseline of activity for one week and gradually increase physical activity with family shared goal setting and step counters. For example, those who are overweight are encouraged to walk an extra of 2,000 steps throughout the day over their baseline. The results of those family members engaged in On the Move is less body mass.
Another familial support for physical activity is active transportation. Today, most children are car pooled to school or take the bus. The number of children who walk to school has greatly declined when compared to previous decades. Using active ways to get to school like bicycling and walking has many benefits. Children who bike or walk to school tend to remain more active throughout the day than their counterparts. If parents accompany their children, they also increase their physical activity.
Parents can also advocate and sign their children up for after-school physical activity programs and youth sport programs. School premises are ideal settings because of playgrounds and gymnasiums. Youth sport programs offer a wide range of activities for kids to choose from, including softball, soccer, cheerleading, dance, bowling and much more. A recent meta-analysis of these physical activity programs indicates a positive change in body fat, blood lipid profiles and overall physical fitness.
Integrated and multilevel approaches connect families with schools, churches and other private organizations for intervention in physical activity. It increases the opportunities for children and parents to be involved in lifetime physical behavior activities in different social settings. A good example is the Program X. This program was designed to engage youth in physical activity through self-monitoring pedometers, parental materials, social support and school-based instruction.
Other Ways for Parents to Integrate Physical Activity into the Day
Coming up with family activities that can be done together no matter what the weather are great ways to integrate physical activity into the day for themselves and their children. Rock climbing, roller skating, ice skating, mall walking, jumping rope and swimming are just a few of the physical activity opportunities that can be done rain or shine. Integrating physical activity in the family’s social calendar is another effective strategy. Celebrate family gatherings, holidays and birthdays with some type of physical activity, such as bicycling, hiking or walking through the park. For birthday gifts, fitness gifts like tennis rackets, trampolines and jump ropes are great tools to encourage physical activity.
Physically active kids have a better chance of developing into healthy adults. Chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure and osteoporosis, have their roots in childhood. By keeping kids physically active, they will have stronger bones and better cardiovascular health. Parents who regularly engage in physical activity are not only positive role models for their children but reap the benefits of better health themselves.