Fitness: It can be a family affair

Physical activity and exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it make us look and feel better, it’s critical for improving health and even extending life.

Being active significantly lowers the chances of developing potentially fatal illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In addition, remaining active throughout life can help people stay healthy and disability-free. That’s why encouraging employees to get their families involved in exercise can be part of creating an environment where health is an enduring, shared value.

Starting a fitness program

Creating an exercise program that works for a whole family can be broken down into four simple steps:

  • Set some goals.

  • Measure the family fitness level.

  • Choose activities that will “fit your family.”

  • Make a commitment as a family to an exercise and nutrition program.

Going for the goal. Family fitness goals can be as unique as any given family. The point is that there should be some shared understanding of what a family wants to achieve in terms of fitness. Then each member feels like a part of the plan and part of the team.

First, measure the fitness level. Any family exercise program starts with an understanding of each person’s current level of fitness. This helps to determine a safe and realistic starting point and fine-tune fitness goals.

There are several simple assessments that can be used to understand the fitness spectrum. One of these is to determine body mass index (BMI), a mathematical calculation that gauges an individual’s body composition. Determining the resting heart rate and taking a one-mile walking test can be used to measure cardiorespiratory fitness. To calculate your BMI, go here.

Other self-tests can help measure muscle strength and flexibility. Consulting with a physician can determine the way to measure each family member’s fitness starting point.

Choose activities wisely. The ideal form of exercise is one that can be committed to consistently. In addition to incorporating all the necessary fitness components (resistance training, aerobic activity, and stretching and flexibility exercises), the ideal exercise regimen should suit the family’s lifestyle, schedules, and fitness levels. Should it be biking, swimming, or hiking? Should exercise be done indoors or outdoors? Keeping it realistic will keep a fitness program alive and well.

Committing to motivate each member. When frustration, boredom, or even something as seemingly harmless as a minor cold throws someone off the family fitness track, a kind word of encouragement can make a difference.

Committing to make smart choices at family mealtimes

  • Planning family meals ahead of time helps make sure that a variety of healthy foods are available.

  • When everyone eats in the kitchen or dining room, people tend to eat more slowly because they’re together. This helps everyone realize when they’re full.

  • Eating from a standard plate—instead of the box or bag—can help define healthy serving limits.

  • When traveling, bringing nutritious meals and snacks can help keep everyone on a healthy track.

  • Drinking more water is always a healthy decision.

For more information on why physical activity and exercise are important, click here for The Relationship between Physical Activity and Exercise.

Click here to learn more about How Your Body Responds to Physical Activity and Exercise.

Click here for more about The Benefits of Physical Activity and Exercise.

Click here for Ways Your Family Can Work Together toward Weight Management.

Click here for the USDA Nutrition Database.

For news related to family health, click here.

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