As a parent, you can encourage family fitness through competition, games, and rewards to build healthy habits for life. After all, sitting on the sidelines cheering on your favorite pro-sports team or at your child's soccer game has its place, but life shouldn't be lived on the sidelines. Isn't it time you and your team got off the bench and start hitting benchmarks?
With the start of the New Year, January is a great time to create a family resolution that will not only build healthier habits for the whole family, but also help you bond on a new collaborative level. There are many products and activities out there, many of which are completely free, that help turn family fitness into a game, making exercise fun enough that you won't even realize or mind that you've broken a sweat.
The Family That Plays Together, Gets Healthy Together
Getting fit together means big, long-term changes and a happier, healthier family. The idea of "gamification" isn't an entirely new concept. B.F. Skinner published a paper in 1950 outlining his ideas about changing behavior through rewards and punishments. The basic goal of behavior modification or operant conditioning is to address a behavior without worrying about what motivates it. It's no fun to go on a run while obsessing about how healthy you're getting. On the other hand, going on a run knowing you could be leading the pack or working toward earning an incentive will keep you on track and spur you to work even harder.
Move. Engage. Play. Win.
Many fitness trackers let you invite friends and family members to join you as you get active. Adding community, competition, and rewards to the equation transforms activity trackers from passive, one-way monitors into interactive gateways for healthy lifestyles. But did you know that 50% of people who wear mobile devices stop wearing them after three months? Engaging with the data these devices collect and turning it into a game or competition increases that retention, however. Fitbit, for example, sends out a friend request on your behalf to help you encourage each other to meet your goals. A sample message: "Hi, let's be friends on Fitbit.com. With a Fitbit.com account, we can see who can walk the most steps per day, run the farthest, or be the most active daily and weekly. We can support each other and take our fitness to another level. Fitbit on. Game on!"
Here are some more ways you can encourage family fitness to become a healthier, happier family.
1. Trampoline parks and climbing gyms are popping up in suburbs around the country, and some even have classes the whole family can join. Not sure if it's for you? Check Groupon for local discounts or call your local family gym to see if they offer low-cost or free trial classes.
2. Fitness tracking devices like Fitbit, smartphone health trackers, and the WiiU Fit Meter level the playing field by tracking each family member's activity based on their height, weight, and age. With a device for each member of the family, you can compare steps taken, active minutes, and other benchmarks on a daily, weekly, or weekend basis.
3. Work fitness into your everyday activities. Why walk to the bus stop if you can hop, skip, leap, or dance there?
4. Set up backyard carnival games or an obstacle course on your next lazy stay-at-home day. Get everyone in on the fun of creating challenges for each other with the supplies you have on hand. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas for any age.
5. Make fitness a fun challenge with healthy competition and rewards. Keep a white board by your front door with the top scores to beat. Include activities that even the littlest ones can excel at, like hula hooping, pogo-sticking, or bouncing a ball.
6. Play active video games together at home like Wii Fit or Xbox Kinect games.
7. Explore new places together. Don't call it a hike if that scares off the kids. Entrust reluctant hikers with a camera or smart phone to document what they see.
8. Sign up for a charity walk-a-thon, mudder, or other challenge to help others while you rise to the challenge.
9. Bedtime is a perfect time to practice mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. Do a yoga video, practice relaxation techniques, or make up your own moves to do together.
10. Wake up together with a morning stretch that includes yoga sun salutations, push-ups and sit-ups, or a brisk walk in the fresh air.
11. Visit an arcade, but skip the shooters and twitch games. Head instead to pop-a-shot, Skee-ball, Dance Dance Revolution, whack-a-mole, and other active games that get your heart rate up.
12. Take "midnight" walks before bedtime to wind down after a long day and explore your neighborhood after dark. You can bring glow sticks, flashlights, laser pointers, or use a Night Sky app to identify stars, planets, and constellations on your walk.
Your family is waiting. Are you ready to get into the game?