The Family that Exercises Together
With the percentage of overweight adults in America increasing from 47.4 in 1980 to 66% in 2004 exercise is becoming an increasingly important issue. According to the Center for Disease Control only 31% of adults engage in regular physical activity during their leisure time and 39.5% engage in no physical activity during their leisure time (regular or otherwise).
What is worse is that childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions. Children are spending more time playing with technology than they are in physical activity. According to the Atlantic Journal-Constitution 15 years olds spend only an average of 35 minutes a day in physical activity on weekends. From 1980 to 2004 the number of overweight children has risen 11% according to the Center for Disease Control.
We all know that exercise is good for you. The Mayo Clinic lists seven benefits of exercise and I'm sure none of them will be a surprise.
- Improves Mood
- Combats Chronic Disease
- Helps Manage Weight
- Strengthens Heart and Lungs
- Better Sleep
- Puts Spark into Sex Life
Okay, the last one may be a surprise to some people. However, that's really my point. Exercise shouldn't be work. If we want our teenagers to continue their physical activity we need to remind them why they did it when they were young. It can be a lot of fun.
With the number and popularity of dance shows increasing parents have a perfect opportunity to encourage exercise in a way that will appeal to teens. The key is to get them off the couch and onto the dance floor.
When kids are younger it is easy to get them to dance. Just pop in a CD and my daughter will start to dance. She's not to particular about who's watching either. However, by the time they become teenagers they are much more concerned with how they look.
So here are a couple of considerations for you. Sign them up for a class at a dance studio. The Access Dance Network can help you locate one in your area. If cost is an issue consider the YMCA or your local school district.
The game Dance Dance Revolution is another possibility. The local arcade should have one available or, if public performances are to unnerving, you can purchase the game for your home. Also, there are versions of the game the plug directly into your television so you do not need to invest in an expensive gaming system (if you haven't already).
My family enjoys having competitions. Whenever we get together as an extended family we break out the game and see how everyone's skills have increased (or declined). The younger generation also gets to enjoy laughing at the older generation.
Another nice thing about this game is that there is almost no age restrictions. The two year olds may not be able to work the game pad but they enjoy dancing with the adults. Plus it adds an element of chance to the game when the two year olds occasionally want to dance right up to however is currently competing.
So the next time you have family night break out the dance shows and remember how much fun exercise can be.
Staying Motivated and Safe
The National Athletic Trainers' Association lists the following safety and motivational tips for dancing:
- Start with a light warm-up
- Start with a beginners' class
- Ask the teacher about appropriate footwear
- Start with practice clothes not elaborate dresses or tails
- Take Pilates or yoga to prepare your muscles
- Build strength in your lower extremities before moving to heels
- Practice - stick with a class over time
- Stay hydrated and if the class lasts more than two hours eat nutrient-dense foods like almonds or raisins in small amounts
- Remember anyone can do it
- Dancing will give you a better sense of well-being
- Share a good time with an old friend or make a new friend through the class
The Mayo Clinic lists the following tips for staying motivated while exercising:
- Set goals
- Start slowly
- Think variety
- Have fun
- Make physical activity part of your daily routine
- Put it on paper
- Seek support
- Track your progress
- Reward yourself
- Be flexible
Or you can track your progress via the President's Challenge. Dancing is one of the acceptable activities.
Remember the family that plays together...so have fun!