Finding Fitness as a Family
Family fitness is one of my favorite topics to go over, because it is so broad, and can incorporate so many different elements. “Fitness” can really include anything that helps you get fit, from head to toe and from the inside out. What a great way to approach life in general! If I could start with anything, it would be to tell you that there are so many ways to be active and fit, and teaching your children and families to explore the many options can be a catalyst for both a well-connected and healthy family for generations to come.
Maybe you are reading this wondering how to help your kids get fitter. Maybe you are reading this wondering how to get fitter yourself. Either way, I want you to come away with some really solid and creative ways to approach fitness in your family at any age, and together. So let’s dive right in!
Let yourself (and your kids) stand a lot.
Now, I have a poster that hangs on the wall of my office called, “Think Outside the Chair.” It comes from this book called, “World Distribution of Postural Habits.” I first learned about this book and this poster when I interviewed a bio-mechanist named Katy Bowman on my podcast. The poster shows you over 50 different positions that you could be in during your work day. It’s like the Kama Sutra of standing workstations. I’m going to try a new position right now while I’m talking. I just switched to a lunging position. Now, you’ve probably seen the news that sitting is the new smoking and that having your butt planted in a chair for eight-plus hours a day, or even for two hours at any given time, is one of the worst things you can do for fat loss and heart health. It actually doesn’t even matter how much you exercise at the end of the day. It just matters how much you got up and around during the day. That happens to be one of the reasons that I’m both standing and lunging as I write this for you. Well, they’ve done the same research on kids. One study last year gave kids the option of using standing desks for an entire school year. Over 90% of the kids chose to stand and those that did burn nearly 100 extra calories a day. Another study found that totally irrespective of the total time kids spent sitting or standing, the more frequent the breaks in sedentary time, a.k.a. recess, the lower the health risk for everything, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and bad cholesterol. Everything. So, recess is good and so are standing workstations. They make them for kids! Check out websites like Updesk or Focal Upright or Varidesk.
Let your feet be free.
When your kids are standing, you might as well let them not be wearing these big overprotective shoes. Now, I’m very uncomfortable when I’m standing around at a party or a social gathering wearing shoes. I don’t like them. As a matter of fact, I avoid shoes, and actually sometimes pants too, when I’m working at home. I’m that guy who sits around writing and recording in my boxers. Now, my kids also rarely wear shoes like ancient tribes’ or their own dad. They have these ugly calloused tough bulletproof feet, but they play outside, hike, run, stand, move, and of course, do their hotel gym treadmill prowler workout. That’s running on a treadmill with the motor turned off, all primarily barefoot. The reason for the importance of letting your child’s feet free is that the shape and density of your kids’ bones are a direct result of the loads and geometry placed on your kid’s body. This means that the way your child’s foot is loaded will affect the lifelong shape of their pelvis, hips, knees, ankles, back, and even the space in their chest that their lungs are in. This is why kids with poor posture grow up to be adults with poor posture. Kids who haven’t had their bones exposed to a variety of loads like running or lifting or moving objects have been shown to have lower bone density later in life. They suffer from flat feet. Pediatric research is now showing that overprotective built-up stabilizing modern footwear can interfere with the development of your kid’s foot strength, ankle stability, and movement patterns for the rest of their life. Your child’s foot muscles atrophy and their foot bones degrade.
Be curious and foster exploration with exercise.
Instead of imposing on your children exactly what you want them to do for exercise, try instead asking them to come along with you to the gym or to the park or field. When you get there, simply let them play and explore and try not to interfere unless their safety is at risk. When our kids go to the gym, we let them have a “fitness circus,” in which they can do whatever they want, as long as it’s safe. In this regard, we feel that the most important thing is not to let our own insecurities as parents become the guiding force for what we teach our kids. If something is truly important, we wait to bring it up until they’re at the right stage of their development, when they actually have a reason to be interested and can consciously understand what we are talking about. Additionally, if you are in the beginning stages of implementing your OWN exercise routine, consider being curious and exploring all the options you have as well. When people say they don’t like exercise, I often wonder if they just haven’t found what excites them yet. Set a good example and seek a form of fitness that gets you going! This leads me to my next point…
Lead by example.
Do not ask your children to do anything that you would not do. This goes for most things but exercises especially in a world where much of the population is sedentary. Wonder why your children don’t get up and play outside often? When was the last time you got outside for a walk? Wonder why you feel like you are dragging your children to sports practice or field days? Have they ever seen you play a sport or get moving? Sometimes this can be particularly challenging once the child is grown, but it’s also never too late to teach a child that change CAN be good, and that physical fitness is a crucial part of your day.
Incorporate fitness into your normal, daily schedule.
Health and fitness are so ingrained in our daily schedule that it’s a totally normal part of our existence. Imagine this: you wake up, work out, go to school and work, train for sports after school, work with tutors, participate in other activities, and always have healthy food in the house. We eat most of our meals at home, which typically includes some kind of salad. Nothing is totally off-limits. In general, we like to eat well and feel well. In order to enjoy consistently good health, you have to eat well, sleep, laugh, and feel connected and loved, so we just do the best we can with all of these aspects. We’re learning every day and we make lots of mistakes, but we have our own style that combines what we learned from our parents and how we want to live our own lives. That’s how we do it.
Some quick takeaways:
- Both you and your children should spend much of their waking hours standing, or alternating between sitting and standing.
- Letting your children’s feet develop without the interference of over-constrictive shoes is an integral part of their bone development.
- Being curious and fostering that curiosity in fitness with your children is what will really make an impact on fitness integration in your family.
- Practice what you preach, in most areas of life but especially in health and fitness practices. Your children are watching, make sure you are setting a good example.
- By making fitness part of your normal, daily routine, it will become a part of the core of your family, and it will never be severed.
This week’s call info
Wednesday, February 8th at 5 pm PST
Speaker: Coach Joe J.
Zoom Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/4636180446