For busy parents with numerous chores to do, and often a job to hold down as well, it can seem as if there are not enough hours in the day. Finding time to just do the shopping can be difficult so is it any wonder many parents say they don’t have the time to stay fit either?

But what about if you don’t try and find time to squeeze more things into your day. Why not try and stay fit by being more active with the kids?

“Keeping fit is an idea that is ingrained from a young age,” says Lucy Wyndham Read, a fitness expert and author of children’s books on fitness.

“Studies have found that the more active kids are as children the more active they are likely to be as adults and the better that it for their long-term health.

“If you start being more physically active with your kids then everyone benefits, you as a parent have more energy and the kids will concentrate at school better and sleep better.”

Active kids are healthy kids

In fact from the age of five children need to at least one hour of physical activity a day. Keeping active is vital for them to form strong bones and muscles but exercise also helps them maintain a healthy weight and can boost their self-confidence.

Benefits for adults

Keeping fit can help you deal with the stress of a busy life, there's evidence to suggest being physically active can boost your mental health by helping to fight anxiety and in some cases even depression.

Crucially, it can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Exercise cuts your cholesterol levels and helps get your blood pressure down. It can also reduce the risk of certain cancers by as much as 50 per cent and regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent a stroke.

Exercise is also great for strengthening muscles and protecting joints from wear and tear.

“We are designed to move, actually sitting still in a chair puts more stress on your body then getting up and about,” adds Lucy.

The Department of Health recommends that adults aged 19 - 64 get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking, cycling, water aerobics or pushing the lawn mower. They also recommend you do exercises to keep your muscles stronger.

So what can you do as a family?

“People think they have to find time to go to the gym but when you are time poor that is absolutely not necessary,’ says Lucy.

“You can exercise anywhere, and doing it with the kids is a great way to spend quality time together.” 

Things to try

• “Walking is fantastic,” says Lucy. You can make it more fun for kids by making it into a game. Walk in a single file and then whoever is at the back has to keep coming forward. The idea is you have to keep rotating. Kids love it. Obviously walking your kids to school is also a great way to build more activity into your lives too.

•  Make a fun family activity circuit in the garden. “You don’t even need to get special equipment,” says Lucy.  “You could, for example, run up and down the garden ten times, or run in and out of the flower pots. Then have an area where you have to do ten star jumps. It doesn’t need to be a lot but if you can do that for twenty minutes then that will be a good way for all of you to exercise your heart and lungs.”

• In bad weather have an activity circuit in the house. Keep it simple – run up and down the stairs four times each. Get a load of balloons and jump about trying to keep them afloat. Then play a game where you all have to move like an animal – such as a snake for example. “It’s a great way to improve mobility and flexibility,” says Lucy. Just by doing these three exercises you will have worked your heart and improved your muscle tone.

• Another great family activity is cycling especially if your have kids of different ages. Tiny tots can go with mum and dad if needs be. Again if your kids aren’t keen try and make it fun. Tell them you are playing follow the leader. Entice them by taking a healthy picnic with you - and let the kids chose their favourite fruit and vegetables to pack.

• Swimming is perfect for all the family but until the kids are competent swimmers this often means the adults don’t get much of a work out as they stand in the pool and keep an eye on little ones. So don’t kid yourself that you have had exercise if you have got wet but not got your heart rate up.

How often should you do something? 

Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

“I think that rather than being put off by big exercise plans it is better to try and include some activity into your life as a family every day,” says Lucy. “So when the kids get home from school plan to do something active with them rather than sitting down and watching the TV. Get into the habit of making sure after school at some point you all do something, pick out what works for your best - like ten star jumps or running up and down the stairs. “The crucial thing for the adults is that they don't just watch, they have to join in too,” says Lucy.

Page last reviewed on 09/06/2014

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