Finding enough time to exercise can be tricky for a parent. Ensuring your children are active enough can sometimes takes priority. But what if the answer was exercising with your kids?
New research conducted by Fitbit found that parents aren't exercising with their kids regularly enough. While all parents believe exercising together is key to kids developing healthy habits, a lack of time and house hold chores are common barriers taking over.
We spoke to Dr Preeya Alexander aka The Wholesome Doctor about the findings and asked her how we can go about getting a little more active as a family. And her vibe on the matter … it's easier than you might think!
"I think lots of parents get daunted by the notion of building in physical activity into day-to-day family life and as a busy parent I can understand this," says Dr Preeya.
"But, this can be simple. A walk to the park, playing a game of chasey, dancing to music, walking/scooting or cycling to the park or café instead of driving – are all little ways you can build in some physical activity for the entire family."
The research conducted by Fitbit suggests that while parents are often active (67 percent stating they exercise at least 2-3 times a week), they don't often involve their children when exercising (with only 25 percent of parents exercising with their children once a week).
This suggests that whilst parents are very aware of the benefits of exercise and fitting it into a busy schedule, we as parents might be struggling with how we can keep the whole family active so that everyone gets in some necessary physical activity.
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Dr Preeya Alexander aka The Wholesome Doctor says not to underestimate how much everyday incidental activity with your kids can add up.
"On a personal level, it's taken me some time as a parent to develop strategies to ensure that not only I get the exercise that I need (with an elevated heart rate and sweating) but that my toddler does too," says Dr Preeya. "You also need to make sure this doesn't feel too 'structured' as kids usually don't respond to that.
"The study also suggests that watching TV or a movie would be a likely activity for school holidays or free-time. Whilst some sedentary activity is fine (trust me we all need a break!) it's about being aware of how much time is spent sitting vs active."
We need to try and limit sedentary time and increase the time spent moving/shaking/dancing/playing – it all counts as exercise!
Dr Preeya’s top tips for keeping active with kids
"Firstly, please know that as a working mother I do not find this stuff easy but here are some tips I implement myself to keep my family active and tips I often share with my patients ..
- Rather than turning on a screen (be it TV or iPad) can you turn some music on instead to encourage some dancing? This is something I often do at home with my daughter – even 15 minutes of dancing around is better than 15 minutes of sedentary time.
- Incidental activity is a big winner – can you walk or cycle to the shops or café instead of driving? If the family are heading out somewhere within walking distance think about how you can encourage some incidental activity.
- Every minute of activity counts! 10 minutes of dancing, 15 minutes of cycling, 10 minutes of walking; it all adds up and every minute of exercise counts. Try not to think of needing big chunks of activity as a family – that can make it all a bit daunting (and we know big goals are often hard to achieve); simply try and think of the little bits of activity you can fit in and know that it all adds up. A quick game of chasey or skipping is all physical activity.
- If you're using out of school ours care during school or holiday periods – think about adding in some active sessions (like basketball or athletics camps) if possible.
- Costs can build up with kid's activities but parks are always free and a great way to get the entire family active. Can you walk to the park, kick a footy, play in the playground? Can you walk the dogs to the dog park and throw the ball?
- Winter can be a tricky time with cold, wet days– but when you're planning activities consider substituting an active activity like trampolining or an indoor swim centre/playground instead of a sedentary activity like the movies."
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"The benefits of keeping kids active are abundant," says Dr Preeya.
"You set up healthy habits for later life, reduce the risk of obesity and obesity-related disease and promote a range of mental health benefits. Not only does the child benefit – but the parent does too. It's a win win!"