“Who is a skiing family?”
My kids ski, but does that make us a “skiing family?”
I am a fairly healthy, middle-aged mama and I am obese. Can I raise fit kids?
I am mortified to think about going into a gym or spinning salon. I would rather get hit by a bar then figure out what to do at a barre class. (All joking aside, until recently, I thought a barre class was a yoga class held in a centrally located Vermont city.) I own an elliptical and a recumbent stationary bike and don’t use either with enough regularity.
I can readily espouse the many benefits of exercise: increased strength, flexibility, stronger bones, decrease in incidence of some diseases (like type 2 diabetes) and improved mental state – a better outlook on life. In addition to these benefits, kids who are physically fit tend to sleep better and are more resilient – better able to handle both physical and emotional challenges. Is this knowledge enough?
Wanting to raise fit kids is not enough.
I have to think about it – make a conscious decision to model fitness. This does not mean that I need to be skinny, although a reduced body weight might be a benefit of modeling fitness.
Tips to raise fit kids:
- Do it together – whether this is stretching before bed or a family walk after dinner, basic family fitness should be a priority. Shoot for 3 times a week – put it on the family calendar. Eventually, it will just become part of your routine. For me, this means that when presented with a chance to volunteer with Girls on the Run, I jumped at it. Talking to my friend later, I expressed remorse, what had I DONE? I am not a runner. My girlie overheard me and came to me later – she said, “Mama, I am not a runner either. I will walk with you and we can do it together.”
- Aim for movement every day – in the Vermont winter, this is sometimes a tall order. Spring is right around the corner and we have been plotting out how many steps it is to various places near our home. When you are unable to do it together, make it part of family share time. At dinner everyone shares their “highlight” and “lowlight” of the day – make a third category and have everyone share their strong body moment of the day. For example, my strong body moment was realizing that I walked enough steps to be a 5K while at work. My daughters strong body moment could be that she was able to get all the way across the monkey bars in one movement. Make it real and celebrate together.
- Use a step counter – my kids were fascinated with the fitness band step counter I received as a gift. It was easy enough to download a step counter on to their iPods so they can play along. Now it is a game; how many steps did you take today?
- Let them choose activities that appeal to them – whether it is a solitary practice like yoga or a team sport like soccer, let your child find an activity that appeals to them. Introverts tend to not like group activities – my introvert desperately wanted to be part of the team. It was a great day indeed to figure out that she shines at goalie – a solitary practice that is an integral part of the team.
- Play with toys – balls, kites, jump ropes, bikes, scooters – encourage toys that make movement fun. Our new favorite is a hula hoop. My husband reminded me that I beat a family room full of people at the Wii hula hoop when I was 9 months pregnant with my singleton. I’ll let that image sit with you for a moment.
- Play video games – yes, really. New breed video games use body movement as part of the game. There is nothing quite as fun with tween girls as battling against each other first with “The Voice” karaoke game then ending up with “Dance Fever” dance offs. Fitness CAN be fun!
- Sneak it in – for all of you! Choose a parking space the farthest from the grocery door. Stretch together while waiting for the tea water to boil. Remind everyone that the dogs need a change in scenery and a walk will do everyone good.
My kids are skiers. We ARE a skiing family. I support this activity and celebrate the wins, even when I cannot be with them on the slopes. I drive to the slopes; I knit warm items; and sit with the gear in the lodge. I listen when they tell me all about the trail and the people they met. We do it together.