Family Exercise: A New Way to Reconnect

When you send your youngest family members outside to play, you could be missing out on a golden opportunity to spend extra time with those you love while setting the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy habits.

Just like adults, children should get active daily. In fact, kids need even more exercise — at least 60 minutes every day.

“The more physical activity children get while they’re young, the healthier their bones will be as they age,” says Lindsey Dietrich, M.D., a sports medicine and orthopedic surgeon at Orthopedic Medicine Specialists, a Texas Health Physicians Group  practice, and who is on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. “Kids also gain cardiovascular benefits from exercise, and literature shows that physical activity habits developed in early childhood carry through into adulthood.”

Get Moving, Family Style

Depending on the kids’ ages, you may need to adjust your family’s exercise goals. If you regularly spend time with a toddler, hit the playground and push her in a swing or take a daily walk together — just make sure to also bring the stroller in case your little one gets tired.

With preschool or young elementary-school children, you can play active games, such as tag or catch, in the backyard or at the park. Swimming, jumping rope, taking a nature hike or walking the dog are also great activities for kids of all ages. As the children grow, consider adding biking, jogging, or active games of football, basketball or tennis to your family’s repertoire.

Spending time outdoors together is great, but it can have risks for you and the kids. You should be careful during activities that can lead to falls or additional aggravation of conditions such as arthritis, and kids have to be careful to avoid injuries to the growth plates.

“Young athletes are still growing, so their growth plates are open,” Dr. Dietrich says. “These growth plates are areas of weakness in the bone that are more susceptible to overuse injuries, so playing 360 days of the same sport isn’t the best option. Adults should stress cross-training by performing many different activities with their children.”

Feeling the Burn

Wondering how many calories you’ll burn during your family’s exercise time? The following list, compiled using the American Council on Exercise’s Physical Activity Calorie Calculator, provides a quick glimpse at the calorie expenditures a 150-pound adult can expect during one hour of certain activities:

Ÿ Biking — 317 calories

Ÿ Dancing — 396 calories

Ÿ Playing frisbee — 238 calories

Ÿ Rollerblading — 873 calories

Ÿ Shooting hoops at the park — 357 calories

Ÿ Swimming — 555 calories

Ÿ Throwing a football — 198 calories

Ÿ Walking at a moderate pace (one that allows you to have a conversation without having to catch your breath) — 261 calories

Whatever activity you choose, make exercise a daily habit.

“For some adults, it’s tough to find an extra hour for exercise, so I recommend integrating activity into your family’s existing schedule,” Dr. Dietrich says. “If children spend an hour watching TV before dinner, for example, simply replace TV time with a walk to the park. You’ll get exercise and have more time for distraction-free conversation.”

Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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