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Family-Friendly Physical Activities That Can Keep You Healthy

September 27, 2017

As a parent you lead by example, and this truth also extends to healthy eating and exercise. 

Children often learn more from what you do than what you say, so if we urge them to eat their vegetables but then indulge in something that’s not very healthy, they’ll notice and want it, too. The same thing goes for exercise. Between juggling the responsibilities of parenting, managing a household, work and other extended family and social obligations, it can be challenging to find time to exercise. The best way to make time for it, while not sacrificing time with your kids or spouse, is to make exercise a family activity. It’s the perfect way to show your kids the importance of being fit while building healthy habits that they’re more likely to carry on into adulthood.

If you’re unsure of how to start your family exercise routine, here are some ideas: 

Why Exercise as a Family?

First, we all know that exercise is important because it can reduce the risk of chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. It also can improve your mental health and your mood.

However, one of the most important reasons to exercise as a family is because childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in this country. Partly thanks to the increased availability of gadgets and electronics, kids have less of a reason to go out and play and participate in physical activity. When I was a child, we spent a lot of time playing outside and many kids I knew were involved in sports. But today, kids are getting more screen time than ever before — one study even linked spending at least three hours a day in front of a smartphone, tablet or TV with increased body fat and a higher risk of childhood diabetes. Childhood obesity statistics are startling. The number of American children who are obese has tripled in the last 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

Childhood obesity is a national problem, but we’re also seeing local trends that may indicate why this is happening. According to the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), a comprehensive report that is the result of a collaboration between several of Central Florida’s top healthcare providers — including Orlando Health, both adults and children in certain counties are doing less and less physical activity.

In Lake County, for example, the amount of middle school students not getting enough physical activity peaked in 2012. Across all of Florida, about 30 percent of all middle school students weren’t getting enough physical activity. In Lake County, about 35 percent of middle school students were in this category, while about 26 and 30 percent of middle schoolers in Seminole and Orange counties weren’t getting enough exercise in 2012 (Osceola did not report its numbers).

This trend also affects some adults. In Osceola County, the rate of sedentary adults has slightly increased. The county also has the highest percentage of adults who are current smokers. According to the CHNA, although the percent of middle school students who smoke is low  across all counties, the statistics are still concerning.

Making an effort to do activities as a family may help to reverse this trend. Some activities you might want to consider include:

Visiting a farmer's market: Take advantage of the year-round warm and moderate temperatures in the area to check out different vendors at a local farmer’s market. Even just walking around for an hour is a decent form of exercise for the entire family.

Visit a local or state park: There’s tons of green space in Central Florida, so grab a set of bikes and ride around the park or indulge in a family game of kickball, flag football or frisbee.

Visit the beach: Although we’re about an hour away from the Atlantic Ocean, make a day trip out of it and take the kids to the beach. If you can’t make the trip, try swimming or canoeing in the Wekiva river.

Take up a family sport: Whether it’s racquetball, volleyball, basketball or tennis, pick a sport that everyone in the family will like and can enjoy together.

Look for family 5K: Many charities and local non-profits host 3K, 5K and 10K races throughout the year. Some of them even include children's fun-runs, so go online and start searching for the next race in which your family can participate.

Some other family-friendly physical activities:

  • Visit the National Shore
  • Go to Cape Canaveral to see a rocket launch
  • Go to an outdoor playground
  • Go for a walk around Lake Eola
  • Check out Orange County's Parks & Recreation programs
  • Visit a seasonal festival (strawberry festival, corn mazes and more)
  • Go to the antique fair or car fair at Renninger's
  • Go camping
  • Take a day trip to a small town close to you
  • Build a fort in your backyard
  • Visit an Orange County park splash pad
  • Check out free events at the fairgrounds and local parks

Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Make it fun by doing it with the entire family. Your kids will benefit, and so will you.

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