There are a lot of fun ways to stay physically active as a family. (Photo credit: StockSnap)

There are a lot of fun ways to stay physically active as a family. (Photo credit: StockSnap)

Get your move on: How to get and stay physically active

Being active has a huge impact on overall health and wellness, including mental health

By Elvenia Gray-Sandiford

Whatever our size, age, or stage in life, being physically active will help us to live a healthier life. Doing physical activities contributes to our overall health and wellness, and has a direct impact on our mental wellness.

Years ago, many people led healthier lives by default. Meals were home-cooked, dinner servings had reasonable portion sizes, and vegetables were served with almost every meal. Caregivers walked their children to and from school, and children played outside until the streetlights came on. Eating fast food was an occasional treat, and snacking between meal meant eating fruit.

Today, we see a trend towards the opposite. Parents are extremely busy while children are booked with after-school activities. Dinner is on the fly, with fast food up to four or more times weekly. Families eat fewer home-cooked meals together at the dinner table, and snacking on junk food between meals is now at will.

In most cases, walks to and from school have been replaced with car and bus rides. Rest and relaxation time is spent with video games, smartphones, and binge-watching television programs. In essence, we have been evolving into less healthy beings who stress more, have fewer balanced meals, and move less.

It is vital to note that physical intelligence is much more than weight in relation to size or Body Mass Index (BMI). It is about intentionally moving our bodies so that they will continue to keep us moving. There’s strong scientific evidence showing that people who maintain adequate physical fitness are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and have a lower risk of developing many long-term chronic conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.

The good news is that by making just a few lifestyle changes, we can live healthier lives, and we do not have to pay gym memberships or climb Everest weekly. We already have the tools we need, and must flex our willpower to make it an everyday priority. It is time to take charge and make change to live better.

Involve the family if possible. Family buy-in and involvement helps to keep momentum going. Plan fun fitness activities together that everyone in the family can do daily. Create fun healthy challenges, and rewards for trying. When families are active together, they not only share quality time, they influence children’s lifestyles.

Let us then shift our focus from just losing weight to other healthy habits, such as eating healthy foods and getting more exercise. Being intentional is key to success in this goal. If we want to get in better shape, one “good” day of exercising, or overworking ourselves at the gym occasionally, is not going to make us more fit. Being persistent and consistent in moving our bodies will show improvement, while every little step helps.

Consistency also signals what works and what does not work. Let us occasionally ask ourselves how things are working for us. If we are not happy with our results, it may be time to make some changes. Let us keep motivated and challenge ourselves, until engaging in physical activities becomes second nature.

Utilizing a gym membership is a great way to stay physically active. For anyone who may not be able to utilize that service, it is possible to get and stay in shape on a budget. Be creative! Come together as families and share ideas to develop a physical activity schedule. Consider the following:

1. Going for regular family walks

2. Joining or creating an outdoor/indoor yoga class

3. Going for bike rides

4. Going swimming

5. Jumping rope

6. Creating a new dance routine

7. Doing jumping jacks

8. Power walking with weight jugs filled with water or sand

9. Frisbee and ball games

10. Taking the stairs

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Health and wellness