If the pandemic and lockdown have taught me anything, it’s the importance of exercise. Any kind of physical activity to get up off the couch is beneficial because research has linked sitting for long periods to numerous health problems. Including obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels (also known as sitting disease).
One reason I am writing about this topic is concern because of my lack of physical exercise. And although it’s due to my chronic illness, my 4-year-old doesn’t understand that. All she sees is mommy is either working or lying down with an “ouchie”. But in the traditional meaning of exercise: nada.
I have talked with many professionals about physical exercise. Everyone had the same advice to share: Start with small steps like walking for 15 minutes, and be consistent.
Personally, I can attest that starting is the biggest step. I find that I am always on the “start” part, especially around summertime. But as the weather gets colder, it becomes more difficult. Even walking for 15 minutes outside feels extremely painful for my body. So, it is tough to be consistent.
Our children are always watching and imitating us and when we establish a healthy exercise routine as a family, it’s something that becomes a habit for them. So I set off to learn more about getting the whole family active.
I spoke with Aneesh Chaudhry, Brain Health Expert and Founder of SoulPhysio Lifestyle and the Soul Physio Foundation, to learn more about exercise, specifically exercising as a family. I asked him a few questions and he helped me understand the value of exercising as a family. Along with how to create a routine with kids, and what kind of exercises we can do together.
What’s the importance of doing exercise as a family?
AC: Exercising as a family is incredibly important for overall health. Regular movement increases circulation within the body. Major chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer all have one common risk factor: plaque buildup within the arteries. Plaque results from a lack of blood flow and a build-up of toxins that become deposited and hardened on arterial walls. Maintaining a regular exercise routine keeps blood flowing throughout the body, especially the brain. Healthy blood flow in children helps to ensure proper development of the brain.
How do we build up a physical exercise routine with our little ones?
AC: This is a great question! It is going to look different for every family based upon several factors: age of the child, parents’ work schedule, etc. The factors that remain constant for children of all ages, regardless of the family, are to find activities they enjoy doing, maintaining consistency of exercise, and creating positive reinforcement through a reward system. Giving children verbal praise and some type of tangible reward (secret “toy”, 10 minutes of screen time, etc.) in the beginning helps to create new habits. The goal of creating long-term behavior change is to get them excited to engage in physical activity regardless of whether or not they get a reward upon completion.
What kind of exercises can we do?
AC: One of the easiest forms of exercise and a great starting point for children of all ages is to go on a walk daily as a family. This is great, especially when there is a dog in the family (win-win situation for everybody). Another recommended form of exercise is yoga stretches for 10-15 minutes a day. This is a great way to increase circulation, flexibility, as well as a host of other benefits. YouTube is filled with beginner yoga videos for anybody looking for specific ideas.
Lastly, as children grow up it is important to begin to incorporate some type of resistance training (weights or calisthenics). Beginning with calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) at the age of 11-12 helps children to build muscle, improve coordination, and strengthen areas of the brain associated with fine motor skills.
Motivation to Exercise
Overall, I believe it is important to know the “why” behind an action. It makes the whole process easier to understand and implement. I hope that knowing the benefits of exercise will motivate you to get (or keep) your family moving.
For more ideas on how to get your family moving, check out this article on 10 Fun at-Home Fitness Routines for Those Who Don’t like “Workouts” and follow these Tips to Remain Active and Strong.
If you are pregnant, there are safe ways to do Exercise During Pregnancy.
What are some ways that you exercise with your family?
About Aneesh Chaudry:
Aneesh Chaudhry is the founder of SoulPhysio Lifestyle, a brain health clinic and integrative healthcare network, and a health specialist who has been instrumental in re-developing and implementing mental and physical wellness programs in the educational system. Through his non-profit organization, SoulPhysio Foundation, Chaudhry works with existing schools to help educate faculty, parents, and students (specifically kids struggling with mental and neurological illness) on how to succeed academically and build a healthier brain by living a healthy lifestyle.