She taught you how to play checkers, bake a meatloaf, and tie your shoes. She made sure proper manners were second nature to you, and that you ate enough produce to justify dessert. You looked to her for guidance in countless circumstances, and, ideally, she provided a constant stream of love and support. Your mom taught you countless things, and is responsible for much of who you are today. And if good health and fitness were among legacies she passed along, consider yourself even more fortunate.
Making good health a priority is a trait that can be passed down through generations much like the notorious family nose or cowlick. Only this family trait takes some effort to instill and pass along.
Whether the younger generation in your life are your own kids or grandkids, a gaggle of nieces and nephews, children of friends, or a youth group, their eyes are on you, and they’re taking notice.
In a study published in 2014 (http://ow.ly/KS6Q30bBzNj) there was a direct correlation between physical activity levels in mothers and in their preschool-aged children. The more active Mama is, the more active her kids are. It may sound like common sense, but consider another study published later that year (http://ow.ly/Hj7230bBAO0) that found that the exercise habit instilled by active parents can extend to teenage years. You may think that the phone-obsessed teenager on the couch isn’t paying attention what you do, but apparently they do take notice. You know, in between eye rolls and Starbucks visits.
Need some ideas for how to exercise as a family?
- For younger kids, turn family walks into treasure hunts or animal safaris, keeping count of all the different animals you see. Or play a favorite car ride game while on foot (think 20 questions or the Alphabet Game). This can help divert complaints and make the time, and steps, fly by.
- For elementary-aged kids, throw an impromptu dance party. Turn off the lights, crank up the tunes, and let the kids take turns holding a flashlight while they boogie down. Make sure you clear out any furniture or other items on the floor first.
- Kids in middle school will enjoy teaching you an outdoor game they learned in PE at school, or at summer camp. Plus, as their skills (and their height) grow, they’ll become a fair match for you in basketball or soccer, not to mention a really fun Frisbee partner.
- High school kids are often motivated by chances to earn money, so offering a little payment reward for manual labor . . . errr, outdoor chores, will get them moving while earning them gas money. Or, why not train with your high schooler for their upcoming sport? They need to get in shape and ready, so why not join them? Besides – the jogging trail can be surprisingly fertile ground for quality conversation.
- For adult children or aging parents, consider setting a goal of hitting every park trail in your 15-mile radius by the end of the summer. Or work your way up to a goal of a July 5k or 10k together. Another idea is to start a new activity together, such as pickleball or tai chi. With so many options for exercise out there, you’re sure to find one that is new to both of you.
This Mother’s Day, we honor Mom for everything she’s passed down to us. We can also honor ourselves and the children in our life by helping them realize the power and importance of physical fitness. Good health is truly a legacy and gift that keeps on giving for generations to come.