Family Fitness - Finding Health as a Family
By Ashley BensonWhen our kids are young, we teach them to eat, walk and to not touch to the stove. As they grow, we educate them about animals and the sounds they make, we show them how to dress themselves and warn them to not run out into the street. We pass along these skills to protect them and to empower our children to succeed in the world. We should also teach family fitness and health habits. I want to talk about another area we, as parents, are responsible for: the HEALTH and FITNESS of our kiddos. We need to be teaching our kids how to take care of their bodies early on. They need to know the real reason we eat food (so our body can grow and repair)! It's ironic to me that we make sure they take good care of their teeth because, "These grown up teeth are the only ones you will get!" Welllllll… what about our body? Let's talk, for a second, about my iPhone. - I love it! It's super useful to me in my work, for my family, and in my social life. It is personal to me! - I am the only one who has this screen saver! I change it out depending on my mood or the season. - I have all the apps I need and have them organized the way I want them… until my 7 year old gets hold of it! - It lets me know when I need to update it. I seem to be improving it all the time. I don't think I will ever stop improving and updating it. - It tells me when it's low on "energy" and needs more fuel, so then I recharge it. - I know it so well. I am aware when something isn't quite right. Do I really need to get it repaired by an expert? Or do I have the power to fix this myself. If this is the case, it usually requires some research. - My phone is personal to me and I try to use it to its full potential! Now, if only we held our own body with the same regard that we hold our phones! Now I want to talk about my body: - I am thankful for my body! It is super useful to me. I use it for my work, my family and my social life. - I am the only me in this world! No one else walks around in this body but me. I get the choice of how I dress my body and it reflects me! - I have everything I need to function: a respiratory, circulatory, digestive, nervous, and musculoskeletal system. I want to keep all of my "apps" updated so they function properly and I get the most out of them. - If I listen, my body will tell me when I need to update it. I may be deficient in something, dehydrated or stressed. - My body tells me when I'm low on energy: I need to know how to recharge. - Sometimes I get a fever or sore throat. I might need a doctor to take a look and medicine to get me past it, but I just might be able to take care of this on my own with the right care. - My body is special and I want to utilize it to its full potential! Ok, now back to our kids. We can encourage this mentality in them early, it's possible! Parents, let's start seeing ourselves as health teachers and paying the same attention to our bodies as we do to our iPhones. This may mean that you have to gain some knowledge for yourself first. The good news is there is health and fitness information everywhere! Yes, it seems to contradict itself, but use common sense and do the best you can! Invite your kids in on the journey and learn together. After all, the home can be the most effective hands on class room with family fitness! Home gyms are a big influencer too. Dedicate the space, the right home gym tools and use it. You might be saying, "Well that's easy for you to say, you're a trainer!" Yes my kids live with a personal trainer and are exposed to the health and fitness world daily, but it’s me, "Mom", who teaches them to care for their body because I love them so much and want the best for them! We are all learners, and I love inviting them in on the process. Here are a few examples of how my family pursues a healthy lifestyle together:
FAMILY FITNESS CASE STUDY 1Subject: Iver, age 7 currently, began teaching at age 4 Goal: For Iver to not only eat the healthy food I give him, but to welcome it! Method: Teach anatomy to my 4-year-old boy, on his level. Strategy: Early on I started teaching Iver about his immune system. I explained that his immune system isa system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. I wanted him to understand white blood cells. Although my kids are super smart, I simplified this information a bit: "Did you know that you have an army that lives inside your body? Your army is made up of thousands of soldiers! These soldiers protect you from bad guys that sneak into your body and make you sick! Did you know that every time you get sick it's because a bad guy has attacked? When they come and invade, your soldiers go into battle! Now we need to make sure they have all the best weapons to fight with. Every time you eat this healthy food, you are making your soldiers strong and giving them the best weapons to fight with!" I tap into his imagination and we continue talking about little people running around inside his body! My son is 7 now, and I get NO resistance when it comes to feeding his soldiers.
FAMILY FITNESS CASE STUDY 2Subject: My whole family. My husband, Taylor age 11, Iver age 7, and myself. Goal: For us to add more vegetables into our day… without a fight Method: Tap into our competitive side. Strategy: A few weeks ago I started a contest: Whoever eats the most servings of vegetables in a week gets to eat a donut or cupcake in front of the others. Honestly, I can't believe how successful this is! I keep a chart in the kitchen and we make tally marks to keep up with our points. It has been one of my favorite joys to watch my 7-year-old boy open the fridge at 7:00 pm and say, "Are there any other veggies I can eat tonight?" or my 11-year-old daughter pack her lunch for school adding veggies without any input from me! When I cook a meal, I tell them how many veggie points they will get if they finish their plate. It's just fun to watch my son finish his food, and the amount of snacking has decreased since we began this. He LOVES having the power to make a difference! Well, I won the first week, but I was so proud of how my kids kept up with me! I took myself out of the race week 2 (I can't win 2 weeks in a row). Week 2, my kids tied with 24 points each! I'm really proud of them and we will continue getting points for the veggies we eat! It's fun and bonding to cheer each other on and celebrate victories with one another. They have learned that health is a choice.
FAMILY FITNESS CASE STUDY 3Subject: Me and my kids Goal: To spend quality time with my kids and grab a workout at the same time. Method: Play games that will challenge us physically using SandBell sandbag training weights. The SandBell provides a fun, safe resistance for our workout. Strategy: I came up with a few games that would give us varying levels of complexity and skill. For my 7-year-old, Iver, I kept the movements simple like throwing and catching. This worked his hand/eye coordination and kept him entertained. I set up Taylor (age 11) with more complex moves, like tricep presses, jump squats and lateral rotation that would challenge her coordination, but also build her strength and endurance. In creating these games, I made sure that my position would provide a great workout for myself as well. My workout consisted of sit-ups, push-ups, squat jumps, chest presses, overhead tricep extensions, and core work, all with the SandBells! At the end of our playtime, I realized I did a lot more repetitions playing with the kids than I would have done if I were just getting in a workout. We had a blast doing family fitness together. The kids are asking when we are getting out to play again… I better start creating more games!
About Ashley Benson
Ashley Benson has earned a degree in Kinesiology and has 15 years experience working in the fitness industry. She is an experienced instructor for aerobics, group strength and pilates classes and has worked as a personal trainer for five years. She is the owner of AshleyBensonFitness, hosts Fitness Vacations, and is enjoying her newest venture as a health and fitness blogger.