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How to Get Your Family Moving

Many families have a goal to be more active this year. When we make movement a habit, we set our children up for healthier lives, physically, mentally, and emotionally. As a parent of three, I know it can be tempting to really lean on our screens—especially when it’s cold outside. But as a fitness instructor, I know that giving my kids (and myself) opportunities for movement helps improve their mood, their sleep, and their overall well-being.

We all know the well-established physical benefits of exercise, from lower blood pressure to increased energy and reduced risk of diabetes. But the mental and emotional benefits are arguably even more important! Study after study finds that children today are experiencing record levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Those statistics can be overwhelming and frightening for parents, making us feel powerless to prepare our children for the difficult road ahead. While medication and other interventions will be necessary for some children, regular movement and the boost of endorphins that comes with it can build their self-esteem and stem the tide of stressors that children face each day.

Here are a few tips, from one parent to another, to get your family moving:

Get Outside

Walking and playing in the sunshine has so many benefits for kids and adults. Getting that vitamin D is crucial to growing strong bones and boosting your immune system and overall mood. I can personally vouch for the magic of taking a cranky child outside and seeing a total transformation. Find a hike that fits your family’s abilities, visit a park with a walking path, or take a bike ride around your neighborhood. Just be sure to use sunscreen if you’ll be out longer than twenty minutes.

Pump Some Music

Good music can turn movement from a chore into a party—no fancy footwork or dance training required! Get those wiggles out to a song by the Wiggles. Blast the soundtrack from your child’s favorite movie or introduce your kids to your favorite ’80s hit. If your kids are anything like mine, they won’t be able to keep their bodies still when they hear a good beat. Studies have shown that music improves mood and increases endurance, so if you don’t think you can run for twenty minutes, try busting a move instead and that time will fly by! If you’re more of a DJ than a dancer, try freeze dance and pause the music every twenty seconds or so to see if they can freeze in place until the music begins again. Just remember: your kids don’t care if your dance moves belong in 1997. They just want you on the dance floor (which might just be your kitchen floor).

Make It Fun

Never underestimate the power of play. Most kids won’t be excited if you ask them to run laps around the backyard, but ask them to show you how a cheetah runs and suddenly they are zooming around in a blur. When kids twirl like ballerinas, stomp like elephants, or hop like bunnies, it’s a workout for their bodies and imaginations. When movement is fun, kids won’t complain (at least, not as much as they usually do—they are still kids after all). This goes for parents too! Face it: you’re much more likely to stick to an exercise regimen that you actually enjoy! If you don’t love to run, don’t force yourself to run. Find a form of movement that makes you happy, whether it’s kickboxing, Zumba, or an evening walk. Bonus points if it is something you can do together!

Sometimes Movement Can Be Still

Yoga for kids has spiked in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. Yoga promotes mindfulness and focus, as well as strength, flexibility, and balance. What better way to increase your child’s body awareness and self-confidence than to spend time in a strong mountain pose, a balanced boat pose, or a peaceful child’s pose? Yoga’s deep breathing and unrushed progression helps children with emotional regulation and impulse control—and I don’t know a single child who doesn’t need a little help in those areas. Not only that, but increased flexibility can prevent injury from other forms of movement. Win win! Find a Youtube video or check out Let’s Make Yoga Magic to find kid-friendly poses—which also happen to be perfect for beginners—and start your yoga practice in the comfort of your own living room. Some children might be able to focus longer than others at first, but with time, your little yogis will surprise you with their stillness.

Set the Example

As parents, we have to make movement a priority if we ever expect our children to do the same. Kids are much more likely to love and celebrate their bodies through movement if parents set the example. But we also need to set an example of a healthy mindset when it comes to fitness. Children as young as three start to internalize the messages they hear from the media about body size, food, and health, so make your intentions clear and positive. Exercise should never be punishment for something we ate or a desperate attempt to change our body. Instead, we need to help our children love movement for movement’s sake. Of course, movement promotes physical health, but we have to separate exercise from body size. Set an example of gratitude for the body you have and everything it can do.

So make a plan that fits your family’s goals, interests, and needs, and get moving! How will you move your body today?

Brooke Jorden earned a BA in English and editing from Brigham Young University. The author of the Lit for Little Hands series and other books for children, Brooke is also, a certified fitness instructor, the managing editor at Familius and a mother of three.

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