How to Make It Fit: Ideas for Keeping the Family Active
By Keith Epstein
Special to The Washington Post
Build exercise into the existing routine. Park a greater distance from the entrance to the mall. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. At a soccer game, walk around the field rather than sitting. Walk the dog. Think of easy, fun activities. Teach each other a dance. Hang a rope from a tree to swing from. Take a ball to the park and make up a game. Give "active" gifts. Sure, lots of kids want video games and CDs, but think about gifts that will make them more active: running shorts or shoes, a bicycle, a Nerf or Koosh ball. Let children set the pace and make choices. Go by their tempo. Let them select a course or an activity on a family outing choosing from among, say, hiking or biking or running. Make it fun, by including another activity, such as tossing a ball while running. Rinks. Weather got you down? Check out the roller and ice-skating rinks. Or get to a local gym, play soccer on the basketball court, do tumbling on the apparatus or make up a game. Equipment. When you buy strollers, look for big wheels and strong frames that can withstand more ambitious outings. (For jogging, special strollers are necessary.) For younger family members unable to do as much as you, there are backpacks, bike trailers and bike seats. When ready, they can go part of the way on their own steam. Adapt games. A preschooler can learn to dribble a basketball and shoot it through a hoop you form with your own arms. In a casual softball game, a toddler can run the bases with you. You can play football they tackle you, but you only tag them. Limit family television time. Studies have shown a correlation between amount of television viewing and performance on aerobics tests. People who watch less tend to be more active. Design a physical activity around homework. If the homework involves math, incorporate that into the activity counting steps or trees, for example. If it's American history, take a walk around historic sites like Civil War battlefields or downtown monuments. If it's biology, identify trees, birds and animals while out walking. Don't be afraid to try new activities yourself. You may look foolish, but it's good for children to see you trying new things and floundering. Revive games from your own childhood. Remember Red Light, Green Light? Duck, Duck, Goose? When was the last time you played catch with a Frisbee? Take a brisk walk before homework or making dinner. Chances are the evening will go smoother, and both your and your kids' moods will be lighter.