Being an active parent is more important than you may think. When you have children, it's easy to put exercise lower on the priority list.

Life gets busy, and you may find it harder to fit in activities like working out.

However, being and staying active can actually have positive effects on your children. In fact, it can even encourage them to be active as well, which can foster healthy habits as they grow.

Let's take a look at what being an active parent looks like, and why it's so essential concerning how active children are.

The Benefits of Being an Active Parent

mom walking with her daughter

Staying active in both children and adults is interesting because it begs the question: the chicken or the egg? In other words, who is motivating who to be active, and how does it end up benefiting both parties mutually?

There are many different advantages when it comes to participating in your children's physical activities and sports actively. Let's discuss three of these:

  • Health: Many people already know that physical activity is closely connected to our general health and well being. What’s more, if you’re instilling a good habit like this in your children early on, there’s a good chance they’ll stay active throughout their life as an adult.
  • Family/Bonding Time: If you find an activity or sport that the whole family can participate in, this is a great chance to connect and have some bonding time.
  • Motivation and Inspiration: Remember, you are the person that your child looks up to the most. This means that if you're active, this will encourage your child to be as well.

How Much Exercise Should Children Get?

Children's Exercise

It’s all very well talking about being active – but just how active should your children be? Often, this is hard to determine as children have varying levels of energy, depending on their growth rate. Let’s take a look.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children should be doing a minimum of sixty minutes of physical activity per day. While this may sound like a lot, as a child it’s certainly achievable.

Let’s break this up into different types of exercise. Aerobic activity is high on the priority list for children and should comprise the majority of your child’s sixty minutes of daily physical activity. This can include running, walking, using a scooter, or even riding a bike or skateboard.

Because children are growing all the time, this means they need to have strong muscles. While this isn't the most essential part of being an active child, it's certainly still relevant. Your child should incorporate some type of muscle strengthening exercises in their sixty minutes.

Lastly, children need to have strong bones to cope with all the growing they’re doing. From running to jump rope, make sure your child is doing an activity that supports the strengthening of their bones.

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How Much Exercise Should Adults Get?

senior working out

Now that we've discussed how much physical activity is required of a child on a daily basis, let's take a look at the bare minimum for adults.

The Mayo Clinic says that adults should be getting a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, and 75 minutes of exercise that’s high intensity.

Naturally, you are free to spread this exercise out across the entirety of your week. To average it out, you’re looking at a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise a day.

This means that the average adult’s daily exercise requirement is half that of a child’s.

Mid-level aerobic exercises for adults may include swimming, brisk walking, or mowing the lawn. Workouts that fall into the higher intensity category include dancing and running.

When it comes to strength training, there are a number of different options. These include using weight machines at the gym, using your own weight, rock climbing, or using resistance weights in the water when swimming.

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To keep it simple, you should be aiming for a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise a day. It’s also important to keep the time you spend sitting each day to a minimum, as well.

Why is Exercise Important in Children?

Let's take a look at some compelling evidence for why being active is so vital in children:

  • Improves Posture: Unfortunately, none of us are born with perfect posture – we have to practice it. Developing poor posture as a child can result in neck and back pain, headaches and fatigue. Strengthening the muscles in the back through being active can improve your child’s posture.
  • Improves Concentration: We all know what it’s like to have a child that just won’t sit still. The reality is, they need to be active in order to concentrate when doing a task. Being active actually strengthens communication between brain cells, which improves your child’s overall cognitive function.
  • Boosts Confidence: Childhood and adolescence can be difficult roads for some of us. There is a lot to navigate out there in the world, both physically and emotionally. When your child is active, their mood is improved, and they feel better about themselves.
  • Helps to Relieve Stress: Children can really benefit from the relaxing effects of physical activity. Because endorphins are released in the brain when being active, there’s a good chance of anxiety levels being reduced. Additionally, your child has a better chance of sleeping well, too.

Benefits of Being Active for Children

children playing with a kite

We’ve briefly discussed why exercise is so important in children. Let’s continue this discussion by looking at a few reasons why being active is so beneficial for your kids:

  • Emotional Well being: We’ve touched on the fact that being active can help with anxiety and self-esteem. In fact, it can be beneficial right across the board, and keep your child’s complete emotional well being in check.
  • Healthy Skin: Many adolescents suffer from bad skin and even acne throughout their teenage years. This often leads to low self-esteem and even anxiety. Being active can help to release toxins and impurities found in the skin, helping to improve the health of your child’s skin in general.
  • Social Skills: When your child is active, there's a good chance that they'll be engaged with other people, whether it's their family or their peers. It's here that they've got an excellent opportunity to learn critical social skills such as cooperation and teamwork. It's also a unique way for your child to meet new people and make new friends.
  • Reduction in Anti-Social Tendencies: If your child is active and focused on this as a priority, they are less likely to get caught up in anti-social behavior including smoking and taking illicit drugs.

Why is Exercise Important in Adults?

Remember, an active parent is just as important as an active child. In fact, an active parent helps to create and nurture an active child. Let’s take a look at why staying active is important as an adult, too.

  • Feel Better: Just like with children, your mood can improve dramatically with the minimum amount of exercise every week. Being and staying active can give you more energy, help to improve your mood, encourage you to feel more relaxed and even give you better sleeps.
  • Lower Blood Results: There are a number of medical conditions directly related to our blood and circulation. The good news is, most of them can be reduced thanks to staying active. Exercising can help to lower your cholesterol levels, lower your blood pressure and help to prevent the onset of medical conditions including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.
  • Function Better: When it comes to children, life can be unpredictable. This means you don’t know what is going to come your way – so it’s best to be prepared for it. Staying active means you will recover quicker from a fall or hospital stay, and improve your levels of health in general.

What Science Says About Being an Active Parent

mom putting a hood on her kid

So, what does science have to say about being an active parent?

Kerry Ploeg of Alberta University conducted a study. The study sent surveys and pedometers to over one thousand grade five children and their parents. The study asked the parents how active they are with their children and how much they encourage their children to be active.

The children wore the pedometers over a time period of five days. The results of the study found that the children of the parents who were most encouraging of being active took the most steps.

They also found that most of the children in the study took more steps on school days than at the weekends. Additionally, boys were found to be more active than girls.

This study concludes that parents are hugely influential when it comes to the physical activity of their children. When a parent cared significantly about staying fit themselves and being active, the child was much more likely to prioritize this also.

Kerry also explained that parents don't typically need to go as far as using pedometers to measure the physical activity of their children. Merely signing them up for classes and encouraging them is enough.

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Staying Active with Outdoor Activities

father and daughter on a beach

We’ve discussed the significance of physical activity both in regards to children and parents, and how these two demographics correlate. It’s clear that the more active a parent is, the more likely their child is going to be, as well.

So, what are some easy, simple ways to keep you and your children active?

Getting outdoors is essential when encouraging the entire family to be active. For a lot of families, the weekend is the best time to do this.

A little planning ahead will go a long way when it comes to being active outdoors. We recommend setting aside one day every weekend to get out and do something productive together as a family. This way, it will come easy to all of you and won't feel like something you have to do.

In the summertime, try spending as much time at the beach as you can. You can walk along it together looking for shells or spend the afternoon swimming in the water.

In the winter, try planning as many ski trips away as you can. If it snows where you are, encourage everyone to get the sleds out as much as possible.

Doing Things Together with Your Children

dad doing push ups with son on his back

Your children may already be participating in extra-curricular activities through their school, which is great for their physical activity. However, this still leaves a gap for you to find something you can do together to help motivate and encourage one another.

Try asking around your local community centers of fitness clubs to see if any classes are being run that both parents and children can do together.

If your little one is a bit too young to participate in physical activity, try finding classes where you can burn calories while looking after them. There is even such a thing as baby yoga where you incorporate your little one into your yoga moves. This will be beneficial to you and entertaining for them.

As well as school sports and activities, a lot of local community centers offer seasonal classes where the parent can participate as well. Whether it’s dancing, karate or Pilates, they’ll be a way for you to connect with your child over their current favorite physical activity.

How to Make Chores Fun

We all know that chores are no fun – especially when it comes to kids. No kid looks forward to chores, and most of them are working out how they can get them done as quickly as possible.

Instead of delegating different chores to individual family members, why not turn them into a game where the whole family can get in on the action?

One way you can do this is to turn it into the competition. Try racing with one another to see how fast you can get the house clean. When you come to do the same chores again the week after, try concentrating on beating your old time from the week before.

Laundry is a particularly tedious chore that nobody likes to do. Try mixing things up a bit and putting on some music while you fold the washing – you can turn it into a laundry folding dance party.

Encourage the kids to dance and sing while you’re all folding and putting the clothes away.

Another great way to come together for some active time is if you have pets. If you’ve got a dog, there’s a good chance that they’ll need walking at some point. Make a habit out of walking the dog together.

You can use this dog walking time to squeeze in a bit of jump roping, running or even roller-skating. You may also want to take a frisbee down to the park and turn it into a game to see who can retrieve it first.

Revamp Meal Times and Plans

Being active is a lot more than just getting your thirty – or sixty – minutes a day. While this is a big part of it, another aspect that’s just as important is nutrition.

Having healthy eating habits as a family will encourage you to be more active, creating a healthy cycle that comprises good habits.

You can do this by taking your children to the farmer’s market on the weekends and encouraging them to pick out something new – and healthy – that you can cook up. This will pique their interest in what your cooking and help them to feel like they have a say in what you’re eating – even if it is good for them.

The more your children are involved in the preparation of the food, the more likely they are to enjoy it. This is because they know what they’re eating and what to expect from the meal.

Being an Active Parent Means Active Children

kid and mom walking on the afternoon

When it comes to being an active parent, the benefits are seemingly endless.

Additionally, it’s hard to decide who benefits more – you as the parent or your children. After all, you are the chicken – or are you the egg?

Children who have healthy, active parents that encourage them to do the same have a greater chance of developing good habits around both food and exercise.

There are many benefits, both physically and mentally, to being an active child. It’s now no secret that active parents encourage active families.

Try creating a habit out of being active with your children. Not only will they thank you for it, but you’ll also be amazed at the good it does for you, too.

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