The benefits of exercising as a family
2 February 2021
Does the family that plays together, stay together? Apparently, yes. Here’s why exercising together is a good idea for everyone.
The research is conclusive — kids whose parents are active are more likely to embrace an active lifestyle themselves.
A study reported by Queensland Health found that the physical and mental benefits of exercise continue throughout life, and people who are physically active in childhood are more likely to carry those habits into adulthood.
“The time you invest in an active family lifestyle during childhood will make a big difference in your child living a happy and healthy lifestyle once they leave the nest,” said Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young.
Which is why health bodies all over the world encourage families to make exercise and activity an integral part of their lifestyle.
Here’s why it’s so important — and lots of suggestions about how to move together as a family.
How much exercise do kids need?
More than you probably think. This is what Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend:
- From one to five years: At least three hours of physical activity daily, spread throughout the day
- From five years to 12 years: At least 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-physical activity (MVPA) every day. This includes everything from walking fast to riding a bike to playing team sports. There should be a mix of two kinds of activities; those that get the heart rate up, and those that are good for bone development such as climbing, gymnastics, dancing, running and skipping. The hour can be spread throughout the day.
And the benefits of all that activity? They include:
- healthy bones, muscles, joints, heart and lungs
- improved co-ordination, strength and muscle control
- improved balance and posture
- the development of vital connections in the brain, leading to improved concentration and thinking skills, and
- less likelihood of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Where to start
Most experts agree that the easiest way to get your family to exercise together is to make it a regular part of your daily routine. This also helps if you are, like most of us, time-poor — it means not having to schedule in yet another thing to do.
If you have primary school-aged children, that can be something as simple as walking, cycling or riding a scooter to school every day. And the benefits stretch beyond just exercise; that journey to school:
- gives children the chance to learn and practise road safety
- makes them aware of their neighbourhood and helps them feel good about it, and,
- presents an opportunity to talk and spend time with a parent or other family member.
If you take transport to school, consider getting off a stop or two earlier, and walk the rest of the way.
Once your child is used to walking and/or cycling a reasonable distance, extend them even more with experiences in nature. — think bushwalking or cycling a coastal track — and walking or cycling to the local park rather than driving.
Get your kids involved in regular household jobs like gardening and washing cars, too. Every little bit of activity helps.
Exercise doesn’t have to be as simple as walking or running. There are dozens of fun activities that can count towards your child’s daily “MVPA”. And ask your kids for input; research shows that they feel empowered and motivated when they’re part of the process.
Here are 10 fun ways to get the family moving together:
- Have a family “dance party” one Saturday night.
- Set up a game of backyard cricket and ask the neighbours over.
- Go on a family rollerblading or iceskating excursion.
- Volunteer at a local shelter and take dogs for a walk.
- Play an old-school game that involves movement, like Twister or Red Rover.
- Set up an obstacle course in your garden using found objects.
- Organise a treasure hunt in your local park.
- Buy a volleyball set and enjoy a beach volleyball tournament.
- Organise a pick-up game of basketball at a local court.
- Hold a hula-hoop championship in your neighbourhood.
And don’t forget the importance of constant praise and encouragement.
Taking care of your loved ones
Of course, another way to care for the health of your family is to invest in quality Health Insurance. Suncorp offers both Hospital and Extras, with the option to combine them. Getting a quote is quick and easy.
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