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May 2014  |  By Christy Coughlin  |  Comments

Work Out with Your Kids: Family Exercises for Any Age

As a fit and healthy parent, you prioritize exercise because you recognize the physical and psychological benefits.

Consider exercising with your kids to encourage this same commitment to good health.

According to Elizabeth Geary, Ph.D., Clinical Neuropsychologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem, “the biochemical, feel-good reactions during exercise can help increase your level of attachment to your [child] and increase lines of communication.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says kids ages 6–17 should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily to:

  • build and maintain bones and muscles
  • minimize risk of obesity and/or chronic diseases
  • reduce feelings of depression and anxiety while promoting psychological well-being
  • improve academic performance with better concentration, achievement, behavior and sleep

Molly Barker, Founder of Girls on the Run, encourages healthy girls all over the U.S. “I have found that running with my daughter has very little to do with the actual running,” Barker says. “Instead, what it does is open a space that is free of our daily stressful lives and puts technology to the side, as well as any need to prove something. She and I can either use the time sharing thoughts through conversation or just share our selves in silence. It really is a very magical place.”

Moving with your toddler

Welcome your toddler to join your exercise, even if it is only for a few minutes. Expose them to the exercise you love, keeping their attention span and development in mind. Ditch the stroller and let them walk; attach a seat or trailer to your bike and bring them along. Kim Hoffman of Wilmette walks as her daughter pedals with training wheels. Let your kids learn to love movement.

Keeping it fun with your young child

Wilmette’s Belinda Nanda loves to go running with her daughter. “We run for about 1/2 mile, talking the entire way. On the way back, we stop to look at every interesting stick/bug/pine cone.”

For this age group, they want to do what you do. Keep it at their level and emphasize fun. Try a bike ride to lunch, the beach, or to run errands. Do a walk/run around the block with your dog. Swim a few laps at the pool and then dive for rings. Practice a sport together. Hike in the woods and take photos.

Breaking a sweat with your tween/teen

For Michelle Altieri and her 12-year-old daughter, “We like to have swim races. This year she beat me! It’s nice to see her having fun while exercising. In the summer we rollerblade or bike, and usually it entails a reward at the end like a Starbucks or a manicure. I am planning on getting her to a gym with me for light workouts.”

You and your teen can really get a sweat going in a spin class, Zumba or yoga class. Keep workouts at the right level so you both feel good. Consider an active vacation: skiing, biking, hiking, snorkeling or traveling to a race in a fun city. The healthy habit of exercising together will last a lifetime.

Photo: Christy hiking with her daughters. 

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