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Family Fitness, who is leading who?

Children aren’t physically active enough.

Instead of climbing trees and running around outdoors, they’re glued to iPods, iPads and mobiles.
That’s a message we’re hearing over and over again in the media – but it’s not just scare-mongering. I hear it from parents too, who have real concerns about the health and fitness of their children. While I don’t want to demonise new technologies per se, after all our children’s careers may increasingly depend on their digital dexterity, I think its hugely important to keep a balance.
If I had a pound for every time someone asks me: “How can I encourage my children to move more?” well, let’s just say I’d probably be indulging in a much more luxurious or exotic pastime than writing this blog on a Tuesday night.
The facts speak for themselves: childhood obesity is on the rise. According to a recent parliamentary report, 28% of children aged between 2 and 15yrs are obese, while just half of 7yr olds are not meeting the government’s recommended minimum of 60minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. And children aged between 9 and 15yrs are doing even less than that!
So what can be done? Well one thing’s for sure: wringing our hands won’t help, and nor will nagging the children about their activity levels or hassling them about what they eat. In fact those things will probably only make things worse, making children feel demotivated about fitness and encouraging them to seek a quick sugar fix to feel better!
Frightening statistics such as these only serve to prey on parents worst fears, but there are a number of factors influencing these statistics, and lack of physical activity is only one of them. Well-balanced nutrition, good quality sleep and family lifestyle are just as important as regular exercise when it comes to the health and wellbeing of young people.
My advice? Lead by example. Plan family fitness activities together – it doesn’t have to involve a gym membership! Try something new; enter the family in sports fundraising events for charity – they’re fun and hugely motivating. Keep active, regardless of the weather. Set realistic fitness goals for everyone.
Remember, too, that good nutrition is fundamental. Make informed, healthy choices for family meals.
Competition in sport is motivating, too. It teaches children excellent coping strategies for life’s ups and downs. Variety is key, so keep fitness ‘fun’ and challenging.
Try creating a family fitness journal using a scrap book. It’ll be great fun for the children to do and inspiring for the whole family. To measure progress, when you begin a new regime start by taking everyone’s height, weight, waistline measurements etc., then you’ll know how your doing!
Also never, ever underestimate the value of good quality sleep. It’s absolutely essential for growing brains and bodies. Lack of sleep can actually cause stress hormones to interfere with insulin levels and encourage fat storage.
And finally, be sure to celebrate success. Children will feel hugely encouraged in their health and fitness endeavours if you offer unwavering support and acknowledge their achievements – no matter how big or small. Just don’t treat them to a McDonald’s!


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