“When planning family activities around movement it is important to make fun the overriding factor. In fact, don’t even use the word exercise. Think of using games, competitions, etc.” ~Gregory Florez, the senior adviser on workplace leadership and vitality for the American Council on Exercise.
At the end of every month, I do a post on self-care. I have covered self-care topics such as: why it is important, how it is not selfish, how self-care can mitigate anxiety, help us forgive, and boost self-esteem. I have even given some zany ideas for out-of-the-box self-care. These posts have primarily focused on the individual nature of self-care. This month I want to start taking self-care a different direction; I want to focus on family self-care–why it is important, and what it looks like.
As a short reminder, self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Viewed through the lens of family self-care, this is any activity we purposefully do to better our family in general–to strengthen relationships, to deepen trust, to build strength (literally and figuratively), and to have fun. Individual self-care puts you in a better place in your relationships; imagine doing self-care activities together as a family unit. It is essentially relationship maintenance and will function like an oil change or tune-up on your car. In future months, I will write more about various emotional, spiritual, mental, practical, and social activities families can do for family self-care, but today we are going to focus on physical activities because Family Health and Fitness Day is TODAY!
I feel confident in saying that each parent wants to teach their children healthy habits. What better way to teach them than by being active with them–as a family? One of the goals of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health is to get the entire family involved in exercise. According to the report, Americans–especially those between the ages of 12 and 21–are not active enough. Let’s change that!
Since the 28th (and the last Saturday of September each year) is designated as National Family Health & Fitness Day, I have been thinking about encouraging my readers to participate. Yes, this is a day to get up, to get out, and to exercise (read: PLAY) together as a family, but I hope we all are doing this more than just once a year. Let’s make a habit of exercising together as frequently as possible. Jennifer Hopper, director of Employee Wellness, Worklife and Fitness at Piedmont recommends aiming for 30 minutes of family movement every day…then everyone wins!
National Family Health & Fitness Day will prompt families to be more active. On the 28th, local organizations throughout the country will host family-related health and fitness events at schools, park districts, hospitals, YMCAs/YWCAs, malls, health clubs and other community locations. Local family health and fitness activities will vary widely based on the organization hosting the event and the interests of local families. Activities will be noncompetitive and may include walking events, low-impact exercises, health screenings, open houses, games and health information workshops.
Seeing as how the point of this holiday is to be healthy and active, there are many ways to achieve that goal. Many family-friendly fitness activities are free. You may want to ask each member of the family to propose an activity (only rule out ideas that are truly dangerous) so everyone can be on board. Whether you want to stick close to home or are looking for an adventure, the following are some ideas for you:
- Wash the car together.
- Host your own family Olympics. Pick activities your whole family enjoys, such as kickball, hopscotch or hot potato with a Frisbee.
- Rake leaves together…and feel free to jump in the pile when you’re done!
- Plant a garden. You can make it kid-friendly by using planters rather than planting directly into the ground.
- Get moving for a good cause. Sign up for a fun run or charity 5K. Almost every event has an abbreviated race suited for a variety of age levels, from toddlers to adults.
- Go hiking, biking or walking at a nearby state park.
- Visit a corn maze.
- Take advantage of your local community center’s pool and playground, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.
- Window shop at the mall.
- Play a fitness game on a Wii or video game that induces activity.
- Take a bike tour of a historical part of your town.
- Go rafting.
- Squirt gun wars.
- “Slip-n-slide” contests.
- The old favorites: Kick the can, kickball, capture the flag, etc. Simple yet so fun!
- Flag or touch football.
- If you have access to a swimming pool, “Marco Polo” and other water games.
- A hiking treasure hunt (pick odd shaped rocks, roots, beautiful flowers, etc).
- Frisbee football.
- Sidewalk chalk.
- Chase your pup until someone captures a ball or toy in his/her mouth. Keep score.
- The time honored tire swing.
- Go on a hike.
- Family yoga! Ommmmmmm.
Remember to try to pick activities that keep everyone moving as much as possible. Keep it fun!
If you do not have a family or live far from them, create your own family group by inviting friends, neighbors or coworkers to get outside and get active with you. And if all else fails, get outside yourself and enjoy some nature’s cure for self-care!
Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.
- The Active Times: “11 Fun Ways to Celebrate Family Health and Fitness Day”
- Cluff Counseling: “8 Unique Ideas to Practice Self-Care”
- Cluff Counseling: “The Best Form of Self-care: Forgiveness”
- Cluff Counseling: “Doing the Things You Enjoy Can Help Your Anxiety”
- Cluff Counseling: “The Key to Slowing Down in a Fast-Paced World”
- Cluff Counseling: “Outdoor Therapy: Nature’s Cure”
- Cluff Counseling: “Self-care: Is it Selfish?”
- Cluff Counseling: “Self-Compassion: A Neglected Form of Self-Care”
- Cluff Counseling: “Self-Esteem & Self-Worth: Two essential Components of the Self”
- Fitness Day: “Family Health & Fitness Day USA”
- Huffington Post: “Self-care, a Win-win for the Whole Family”
- National Day Calendar: “NATIONAL FAMILY HEALTH & FITNESS DAY USA – Last Saturday in September”
- Piedmont Healthcare: “Make fitness a family affair”
- PsychCentral: “What Self-care is–and What it Isn’t”