Physical activity may be the easiest and most fun way to stay healthy and improve one’s quality of life. There are countless ways for one to be physically active and most of them are fun and easy to do. I would like to point out the fact that I’m not using the word exercise. This is because exercise has a negative connotation among many people because they associate it with strenuous activities such as sit-ups and running. These activities are only a sub-set of physical activity and can be incorporated into a variety of different games to make the exercise more fun. For example, playing a game of tag with your kids may involve running. Physical activity has been shown to offer a wide variety of health benefits. These include but are not limited to the following: decreased women’s risk for postmenopausal breast cancer (Bernstein et al), for both men and women it can protect against lung cancer (Blair et al), reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke (Fentum), reduce depression (CDC), and increase quality of life (Morimoto et al)
A way to make physical activity more fun is to do it with your family. Family fitness also offers some benefits that are not so observable like family closeness. There is a reason that the first question asked a boy in relation to how close he is to his father is, “Did you ever throw the ball around with your dad?” However, the bond of physical activity is not only between males playing sports, any form of physical activity can be a great family building experience. However, there may be barriers to physical activity such as time, money, or even the weather. These can all be overcome with a little bit of effort. Physical activity doesn’t need to take a lot of time, for adults 30 minutes a day five days a week is enough. If you live in a town with nasty weather you can find activities to do indoors or become a member of a gym like the YMCA. If you don’t have enough money for a membership, the YMCA offers scholarships to help with the cost. With a small amount of effort, there really is no excuse not to get fit and improve your life and your family.
One of the easiest ways to be physically active is to play with your kids. A few suggestions given by the CDC for fun family fitness are: • When they say that they’re bored suggest combining parts of two games or sports to create a whole new activity • Include physical activity as a part of birthday parties, family gatherings, and when your kids’ friends come over to play • Choose activity-oriented gifts such as jump rope, hiking shoes, or fitness club membership. These gifts can often be found at cheap prices which is great during these tough economic times. • Turn on music to get bodies moving while indoors and even to liven up household chores • Children should be active after school. All children can find physical activities they like to do; offer them choices and let them discover their own interests, but make sure that active play is part of their day outside of school. (CDC/physical activity) The CDC offers guidelines for exactly how much physical activity is enough for a child. Children and adolescents should have at least one hour of physical activity a day. Most of this hour should be aerobic activity and at least three days a week it should include vigorous aerobic activity like running. Also, three days a week it should involve a muscle-strengthening activity like push-ups and a bone-strengthening activity like jumping rope (CDC). The CDC also offers some guidelines for adult physical activity. They suggest getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week; or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity; or an equivalent mixture of both types. Furthermore, aerobic activity should be performed for at least 10 minutes at a time, preferably, spread throughout the week. Moderate aerobic activity is described as when a person doing it can talk, but not sing, during the activity. Vigorous aerobic activity is described as when a person doing it can’t say more than a few words without pausing for a breath (CDC). Some examples of moderate aerobic activity are: brisk walking (about 3 mph), water aerobics, riding a bicycle (less than 10 mph), ballroom dancing, and general gardening. These are fun activities that the whole family can do together. Examples of vigorous aerobic activity are: race walking, jogging or running, swimming laps, aerobic dancing, riding a bicycle (10 mph or faster), jumping rope, heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing with heart rate increased), and hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack. None of these may seem very fun at first, but when the whole family joins together you can make them fun. A family bicycle or foot race makes running or bicycling a breeze and going for a family hike at a park will be quite the adventure. There are many different ways in which to be physically active with your family. Reasons to start today include the wide range of health benefits previously stated, but the most important is that it can make your family stronger. Physical activity can become a part of your family’s daily schedule and it will bring you all closer together in a fun environment. References: Blair, A. et al. (2005). Leisure-time physical activity and lung cancer: a meta-analysis. Cancer Causes & Control, 16(4), Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20069480
Calle, E. et al. (2003). Recreation physical activity and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in a large cohort of us women. Cancer Causes & Control, 14(6), Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3553536
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Fentem, P.H. (1994). Benefits of exercise in health and disease. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 308(6939), Retrieved from http://www.jstor/stable29723546
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