A day doesn’t go by without some sort of reminder showing us the importance of getting healthy and fit. We see beautifully bronzed, highly toned men and women gracing page upon page of magazines. And this is in stark contrast to how the nation appears to be shaping up.
Levels of obesity in adults and children have never been higher. The Government is so concerned that it is even prepared to take action against parents of severely overweight children. With a hectic pace of life that pushes the average family to full stretch, it’s hard to find the time - let alone energy - to exercise. When this is coupled with a lack of interest, not surprisingly, the couch and remote control seems an appealing alternative.
So, how can this vicious cycle be broken? Well it would certainly help if exercise suddenly became more fun, and an activity that the whole family can partake together. Exercise - fun? Do those two words go together? Well, yes they can!
Here are some fun ideas to provide you with food for thought:
No longer are computer consoles regarded as sources of lethargy and inactivity. Now there’s no excuse not to jump up and play exercise games in the comfort of your living room. As the programmes are often varied, this prevents boredom settling in, and appeals to the slightly older child. Check out boxing, dancing and general workout games that you can plug into a games console.
Take your pick - there’s such a huge choice of dance styles to select from. Dancing is very much in vogue, thanks to shows such as ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Its strong appeal lies in the fact that it can be done anywhere, anytime. Dance mats attached to computer consoles are great at teaching different dance steps and moves. Singing into a hairbrush is optional, but you can learn it the professional way and join a dance class.
Yes, a few stolen moments here and there with a traditional Hula Hoop can do wonders for the waistline. Not only is it an inexpensive item to buy, but both adults and children can have a go and giggle at each other as they do it.
This is not an obvious form of exercise, and, really, it’s not an entirely practical one either. But if you visit an attraction that has a bouncy castle – use it! It’s amazing how many calories will be burned after a ten-minute stint on the brightly coloured inflatable, and the feel good endorphins released from jumping around with the kids makes it priceless.
Many primary schools are currently benefiting from skipping workshops as part of a national programme, offered by instructors who aim to revive this activity as a fun way to get fit. We all know rigorous skipping is intense and can put anyone off, so go at your own pace.
OK, back to the 1970’s again. These funky, bouncy sit-on items make for great family relay games. Not only do they encourage cardiovascular work, but are also great for strengthening the legs and tummy.
The garden provides the perfect spot for Frisbee throwing, playing catch with a ball and creating circuit-training courses. If you’re fortunate enough to have a garden or back yard large enough, then consider investing in a trampoline.
Children love to climb, be it a tree, the furniture or up an official climbing wall - it’s an activity that continually offers challenge. Parents can get involved by signing on at a local climbing wall and learning how to ‘belay’, in other words, safely hold the ropes at the bottom, whilst their youngster clambers up the wall.
Be kind to your body. Keep it topped up with plenty of water and energy boosting food such as a banana, at least half an hour before you exercise. Dehydration can tire the body rapidly and will make anyone feel zapped of strength. Sipping water during exercise will help you keep up the momentum. And if you feel full of energy, exercise will feel more fun.
It may seem surprising, but good exercise clothing does make a difference. Purpose-made exercise wear allows the body to breathe and doesn’t retain the sweat as other materials do. If you feel comfortable you are more likely to enjoy what you are doing.
Find out more on family fitness by visiting NHS Direct: http://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx
Over 18 million copies of Primary Times magazines are distributed every year through primary schools in 59 regions across the UK and Ireland.