May is National Physical Fitness & Sports Month, making it a great time for parents to evaluate how well they are keeping their family motivated to stay active and take note of some helpful tips. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there are many good reasons for families to stay active, and regular physical activity is something that everyone can do, despite one’s age or body type.

Many parents know the importance of being physically active, but they don’t always know where to start when it comes to motivating their family to live such a healthy lifestyle. The good news is that it’s not as difficult as it may seem, and a little bit of motivation goes a long way.

Coach Sarah Walls

Coach Sarah Walls

“Most parents are very busy today with work and all the obligations that come with just getting by each day,” explains Coach Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc., who is also the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. “Family fitness is also something that gets pushed aside when schedules are busy, yet it’s one of the most important things they can do to care for their family. We have to make it a high priority and way of life.”

According to the HHS, physical fitness comes with a host of benefits for people of all ages.  Some of the benefits of keeping physically fit include improving muscular fitness and bone health, lowering risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, and improving cognitive function. It also helps older adults to improve balance and lower risks of falling and a few key tips can help.

Here are some tips that parents can use to help keep their families motivated to be physically active:

  • Start with small changes. If your family is not used to being physically active, you don’t want to throw too much at them at once. Start with small goals and add more to it as you go along.
  • Get everyone in on it. Hold a family meeting about how you want the family to be more physically active. Discuss why it’s important to be active and what the benefits are. Getting everyone on board, it is going to be easier to keep them motivated as the weeks go by.
  • Choose some activities. Try to vary the ways that your family will be active together. Not everyone likes the same type of activity, so if you mix it up you will keep everyone interested and more motivated to participate. Add in things like hiking, swimming, biking, bowling, backyard soccer games, miniature golf, going to the trampoline park, etc. Ask everyone in the family what type of activities they would like to do, and try to incorporate at least some of them as time goes on. Work with a personal trainer who can help your family come up with a personalized fitness workout routine your family can do together a few times per week.
  • Aim for making it fun. The last thing you want to do is make your family feel like being active is a punishment. Try to keep it fun and positive. This should be a good thing for the family to do together, not something that involves tears and threats of being grounded.
  • Make it a lifestyle change. Short-term health and fitness goals don’t last. It’s important that the family know that being physically active is going to be part of your family’s lifestyle.  It’s not something that will be gone in a week or month.
  • Lead by example. The most effective way for parents to motivate and teach their children to live a physically active lifestyle is to lead by example. Parents who are physically active demonstrate to their children the importance of being active, even without saying anything else to motivate them.

“Parents really want to aim for making physical activity something that is fun and beneficial so their kids don’t see it as a chore,” added Coach Walls. “Families can have a lot of fun being active together, and chances are they will be happier and healthier as well. A little bit of motivation (and some key tips) can go a long way.”