It’s a new year, and many of us are looking for ways to be healthier, more productive, and a better influence on those around us. One thing that enormously improves our ability to focus, reduces stress levels, and reduces the risk of a host of diseases is getting more exercise, making it possibly the most popular new year’s resolution year after year, though many of us don’t manage to keep them.
For many parents, that commitment extends to our kids, and trying to build a healthier and more active environment for our children to grow up in. In terms of building, and successfully leading an active lifestyle in the long term, though, parents need look no further than their own kids for inspiration.
1. The best kind of exercise is play
Family bicycling trips, hikes, yoga, and other structured activities are fun, but don’t offer great sustainability. A few weeks of scheduling conflicts or bad weather can easily break up your routine, and quickly leave the workout gear stored back in the garage where you dug it up at the beginning of the year.
Less structured play, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be carefully scheduled, doesn’t require very regular attendance, and is always open to all ages and levels of fitness. There’s simply no barrier to entry. Playing tag, swinging on a swing, throwing a ball or a frisbee, playing jump rope, or other simple kids’ games are a great way to exercise, and they’re not tied to any program or progression that you can run afoul of.
2. Create an easy and irresistible active play space
The trick to facilitating a lot of active play is to make it easy to get started. Set up a swing set in your backyard, designate a play room, and keep simple and versatile toys and equipment like balls, mats, and jump ropes around for everyday use.
The immediate result of this is that it’s suddenly very easy to get moving. Instead of scheduling play time, you can simply go and get started at any moment. Kicking a ball around for 10 minutes requires no preparation and no change of clothes, and can be done while you’re waiting for water to boil for dinner. This allows you to introduce short play recesses into your and your kids’ days.
3. Play together with your kids
Keep in mind that playing isn’t just for kids. There is no age were swinging on a swing suddenly stops being fun, or you simply grow out of throwing a ball. We stop because we are removed from places where play is appropriate, and it gets in the way of our fitness and our health. By playing these simple games with our kids, parents can get their own bodies moving again in ways that they generally won’t at the gym, or doing any kind of dull adult-style workout. Furthermore, it creates bonding time with your kids, all while filling those otherwise wasted moments that we far too often spend scrolling through facebook.