Get Moving! Becoming Physically Active With Your Kids

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | March 3, 2016

As parents, we want to make sure our children are getting plenty of physical activity each day, right? We know it’s good for their physical health: exercise help brains develop, improves IQ scores, and lowers risk of obesity and diabetes. Plus, it's great for emotional health – a child who's out exercising and playing is a happier child!

But, here’s an unexpected wake up call. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, it's time for us parents to get moving, too!

A new study used activity monitors to track the activity level of more than 500 mothers and their preschool-aged children. They found a strong link between the activity of the mother and the activity of the child. The more active the mother was each day, the more active her child was.

They also found that, on average, moms were only getting 30 minutes of activity per week. They suggested that most of the mother’s moderately vigorous activity was during the week when their child was in school or daycare. With so much research showing how physical activity directly improves health, we need to prioritize our own activity levels to help our children become more active, healthy little people!

Tips to Get Moving Together

Between gym class and recess, school children are much more active during the week. Every parent knows how hectic weekends can be, but this is the perfect opportunity for working out together, bonding, and becoming healthier individuals. Take the reigns and make it happen!

1. Make it Fun

No child wants to be forced to do an activity that they don’t like. (No adult likes that either!) Instead, get outside and find out what activities interest your child. Throw a Frisbee, catch a football, play hide-and-go-seek. Ask them what they like to do and create a game around it. Struggling? Make something up that’s silly. Have them make the rules, draw the boundaries and use their imagination. One 30-minute game, 3 separate 10-minute games, or sudden sprints all count! Put on your child's favorite song and have a dance party! Run the stairs while waiting for a football game to start. Skip around the yard waiting for the school bus. Every minute of fun movement is precious and supports better health.

2. Play with Friends

Kids love to play with other kids. Join up with another parent and have a work out-playdate. Go snow shoeing or ice skating in the winter instead of the movies, meet them for a hike (call it an "adventure in the woods"), or go swimming at your local community pool. Try surfing lessons at the beach!

3. Invite the Kids to Your Workout

Are you a yogi? Do you love to run? Do you have a playlist of your favorite at-home exercise routines that you try to shoehorn in when the kids are at school? Invite them to the party, instead! These forms of exercise provide a challenge with a goal-oriented focus and timeline – perfect for any distractable child to follow.

Ask your child what his or her favorite activities are and make them a part of your new, healthy routine. It’s a powerful part of your child’s health, your health and helps grow your relationship!


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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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