Fit families are healthy families who have an active lifestyle. Frequently, they enjoy the things they do together, and the things they do together foster better communication and closer relationships than watching TV does.
Family fitness takes some parental commitment, leadership, and imagination, and you may have to listen to a lot of grousing and whining to start with, but the entire family will benefit as a result. Five factors that affect your family fitness plan are cost, convenience, family-friendly environment, fun, and success.
Family fitness doesn't have to be expensive. Sure, you can drop a couple of hundred dollars or more taking the family skiing. But you can find a slope and sled down it on plastic trash bags for free. Most communities have free or low-cost family activities at community centers or parks. Check your local newspaper or parks and recreation department, and use your imagination to come up with activities your family can do together that don't break the bank.
Families are busy, and convenience is essential to a family fitness plan. If you have to go through a lot of hassle or travel a long way on a regular basis, you won't follow through. Plan activities that you can do in your own backyard or neighborhood, like play Frisbee. You can also stay home to rake up leaves and jump in them, or make snow angels in the winter months. If you join a club or team, make it one that's convenient to get to, and one the entire family can be a part of. Joining a bowling league is a great way to keep the family involved.
When you join a club or plan an activity, make sure your whole family is welcome. It's not much fun to look forward to an outing, and then discover that your kids are the only ones there. You want an appropriate environment for young children, too, where they will be safe and not exposed to "adult" language or behavior.
Fun is the key to successful family fitness. If everybody has fun, you'll all want to do it again. Ask the kids what kind of activities they enjoy. You could even let them choose some family activities and help with the planning. Have a family meeting, and come up with a list of activities your family wants to try.
In addition to making sure your family fitness activities are fun, you can make sure your family fun activities center around fitness. Take everybody miniature golfing for a birthday instead of having a cake-and-ice-cream party. Celebrate Independence Day by going on a 10K walk together (which you'll have to train for together). Walk around your neighborhood at Christmas and enjoy the lights, or sing carols. Bring fun and activity together as often as you can, and you and your kids will begin to associate an active lifestyle with having fun.
Every member of your family needs to feel successful at whatever activities your family chooses. They don't all have to be good at the activity as long as they enjoy it and feel good about themselves doing it. Family fitness can become an unhealthy competition that leaves less athletic family members feeling like failures, and that can defeat the purpose. Choose activities that everybody can participate in and enjoy at least moderate success at.
When our families pursue fitness together, we benefit in other ways, too. Your kids will remember and treasure family camping trips, going swimming together, and having family snowball fights. You're building good health habits and good childhood memories at the same time, and the whole family is having fun doing it.