Local fitness centers can help form the bridge between generations by showing families how they can be physically active as a team. National Family Health and Fitness Day, occurring this year on September 26, 2015, will be the 19th year in a row that the United States has devoted a day to events promoting family fitness.
The goal of National Family Health and Fitness Day is to make fitness fun and to show ways that families can remain active at all ages.
Fitness centers are in a unique position to promote a lifetime of healthy decisions when they can support a family’s goals, show ways to incorporate fitness into the everyday life of a family, and create a family-friendly workout environment.
Although the benefits of healthy eating and exercise can be found in every magazine and on numerous television shows and podcasts, America’s youth still struggles with getting enough activity.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, approximately half of America’s young generation between the ages of 12 and 21 do not regularly participate in vigorous activity.
Part of this is due to the removal of physical education classes from many school districts. If the classes have not been removed, they have been decreased to where only 19 percent of high school students participate in a 20-minute PE class five days a week.
Physical Activity Recommendations
The U.S. Surgeon General recommends daily participation in moderate physical activity and suggests that youths aim for a 30-minute walk or 15 to 20 minutes of higher-intensity sport play. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ups the ante slightly and says adults, teens and children should aim for 60 minutes of daily exercise.
This can be divided up into smaller durations and does not have to be a continuous time period. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, which can easily be achieved with 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
Family Fitness Fair
Local fitness centers can promote these minimum fitness requirements by showing families that exercise is fun. A family fitness fair is a way to encourage members and nonmembers to use the health center, plus local health experts can be on site to provide wellness tips and testing with regard to:
- Body fat
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Heart rate
- Body mass index
- Foot health
Many local hospitals can send a nurse to perform some of the health tests. Other local professionals, such as chiropractors, physician assistants and podiatrists, are delighted to share their services with the community.
By working with local health providers, fitness centers increase their networking, boost membership and show locals that they are invested in the health of their community members. Local fitness participants will choose to purchase memberships at health centers that invest in their families' wellness.
Enjoyable, Safe, Confident
Local businesses can easily support family efforts to achieve and maintain health. Adults and children alike should learn that exercise is enjoyable when it is performed safely. Plus, participants should feel confident in their ability to perform workouts and know that their bodies will do what they ask.
Trainers are an in a wonderful position to provide safe exercise instruction and help adults and children build their self-confidence. When an exercise routine is adapted to each fitness level, adults and children learn to work within their limitations yet push forward and reach their goals.
A family fitness fair on National Family Health and Fitness Day is the perfect chance for families to speak with a trainer without the pressure or intimidation of an intense sales pitch.
Trainers can be available for fitness consultations, fitness testing and to give examples of how personal training sessions benefit families. Family sessions can be scheduled as a way to maintain the family bond and keep each member accountable to the new routine.
At a family fitness fair, a health club can organize a fun run for families of all ages. The goal of the run is to finish the race, and families can run as individuals or perform a team relay if needed. Walking is encouraged and can be set up as a separate event.
A competitive atmosphere is not encouraged, as the goal is to make exercise fun and for each family member to feel confident in his or her abilities. A way to reduce the competition is to award everyone a t-shirt or to let families start and finish the run as they arrive instead of starting all the runners at the same time.
If the facility has a pool, an indoor triathlon can be set up — again, without competitiveness but simply to show participants an example of the three different sports. For instance, ask participants to swim for 20 minutes, ride an indoor bike for 20 minutes and then run or walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes.
Exercise sheets can be passed out and filled in the way one would fill in a bingo card. As family members complete each exercise station, they mark that square on their sheet.
One of the biggest and most popular physical challenges of the past few years is an outdoor obstacle course. Fitness centers can set up an outdoor obstacle course using available items such as chairs, aerobic steps, hula hoops, exercise balls, weight benches and more.
Imagine a course in which you walk the balance beam on steps, run tires through hula hoops, crawl under weight benches, jump rope for 20 yards and roll over the tops of balls. This fun way to exercise is something that parents can set up at home in the backyard, and health clubs can inspire this passion.
Cake walks are fun events at many family gatherings and are a version of musical chairs. Participants walk around on images of goodies that are arranged in a large circle, and whoever lands on the predetermined image wins a cake. While fitness centers do not want to promote sweets, images of fruits and vegetables could be used, with participants receiving apples instead of cakes. Other games that encourage movement and are easy for fitness trainers to lead are:
- Mother May I
- Red Light, Green Light
- Simon Says
- Duck, Duck, Goose — standing, with participants marching or doing jumping jacks in place
A way to draw in more community members is to include a large event at the family fitness fair. Schedule a strength team to perform eye-opening feats such as tearing phone books, ripping license plates or squatting with four people on their backs. These teams typically have a health-promotion message that will reach audiences of all ages. Members and nonmembers will arrive to see what the club has to offer.
To prepare students for the Presidential Fitness Test, stations can be arranged at a family fair that include pushups, sit-ups, stiff-arm hangs, pull-ups and flexibility testing. Handouts can be provided to identify the preferred ranges in each of these categories, and trainers can help set up a mini workout that improves a student’s ability to do the exercises.
Family Group Exercise
Fitness trainers can lead group classes for families by team-teaching a sample session. For example, four instructors can stand on each side of the room, as if it were divided into north, south, east and west. The instructor in the north position leads the warm-up and a portion of a kickboxing class; then, participants turn to the instructor on the east side of the room for 15 minutes of Zumba.
Next, participants turn to the back of the room, or south, for strengthening exercises, followed by a turn to the west instructor for abdominal work and a cool-down. Participants get a taste of each class in a fun and highly motivating atmosphere, which will encourage them to return for a complete group fitness workout.
Fitness centers can help families remember all they have learned by having handouts available. These can include healthy recipes, fitness tips and reminders of ways to incorporate exercise into everyday life, such as:
- Parking away from the store doors.
- Using stairs.
- Walking the dog.
- After-dinner walks.
- Pushups or crunches during commercials.
- Hula-hoop afternoons.
- Dance jams in the living room.
Health Clubs should collect family contact information and keep communication open as to how they can best serve their members. This communication goes a long way toward helping people reach their health and wellness goals, especially in families.
According to research from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at Iowa State University, parents who maintain open communication with their children are more likely to have children who make healthy food choices and participate in physical activity.
One way trainers can encourage this communication, say the researchers, is to provide role-playing opportunities in which parents have easy, natural conversations regarding healthy choices.
A family fitness fair on September 26, 2015, is a way to make fitness fun and promote National Family Health and Fitness Day. With a little preplanning, this day will be something that community members look forward to each year and to which they will return in order to see what new fitness trends have emerged.
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