With the end of summer approaching and the beginning of the school year on the horizon, household schedules are about to become busier. Conflicting, frenetic schedules tend to strain meaningful family moments, which can negatively affect relationships within the household. A lack of family time has been shown to have possible impacts on behavior, social competence, and school engagement in younger children.1–3 For adults, missing out on family time can induce stress, distance, and miscommunication in their relationships, including those with coworkers andfriends.1–3 Allottingtimeweeklyforthe family activities can reinforce bonds and lasting connections, create a supportive, safe environment, enforce communication and value, improve social and decision- making skills, and keep everyone in the family physically and mentally active.1–3 We’ve chosen a few fun and engaging family activities that incorporate a healthy dose of exercise for the whole family.
Walking or Hiking
It’s no secret that walking boasts many health benefits, such as improving circulation, lung function, quality of sleep, and bone and joint health. Additionally, walking at least a quarter mile every day lowers the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by nearly 50 percent.4,5 Transforming a solitary walk into a family event allows the whole family to motivate each other to keep up this healthy practice and make it a daily habit.1,2,5 Use this family walk to get creative with your family: share stories and recollections of each other’s day, discuss elements of nature and animals you might be observe while walking, and even plan for upcoming days. Engaging in conversation will cause the miles to fly by, too. Walking can be done in the morning before school or work or after dinner, as it can aid digestion. Aim for at least 30 minutes every day.5
Planning and preparing meals together allows family members to connect and learn about proper nutrition and which foods should be incorporated daily for optimal health.10 Cooking with a parent or guardian presents novel opportunities for children to learn about problem solving, the science of cooking, and using math for measurements in recipes. Whether you’re using produce and herbs from your garden or ingredients purchased from the grocery store, cooking together is a great team building exercise, as each family member can be appointed different tasks, like prepping, chopping, mixing, and assembling ingredients.
Moving to the sound of music can have tremendous health benefits. With little impact on the body, dancing is a gentle way to rid of the stresses of school and work that might be affecting you. As a form of exercise, dancing boasts some impressive health benefits; 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity dancing or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity dancing a week can improve cardiovascular health, balance and strength, enhance cognitive performance, and improve moods.3,4 Playing your favorite music and getting your groove on can be a fun way for the whole family to decompress and exercise together.
Alleviate stress, spend some time in nature, and grow your own fruits and veggies with this rewarding activity. The gratification of harvesting your own food, promoting healthier eating, learning about the process of plant growth, and enjoying time outdoors can all be achieved by gardening. Tending to a garden is an excellent way to educate younger family members on responsibility and accomplishment. Even better, gardening is considered a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.6,7 The World Health Organization states that activity that requires moderate effort and noticeably elevates the heart rate is considered moderate intensity, which has been linked to enhanced lung function, better energy levels and stamina, reduced stress, lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol, prevention of cancers and Type 2 diabetes, inflammation reduction, and improvement in the immune system. It’s also an excellent way to get in a daily dose of vitamin D.
Playing Board Games
Board games can significantly benefit brain and language development and provide opportunities for learning at any age.11 In particular, strategy games encourage healthy brain activity in older kids and teens. Brain development aside, board games can be a soothing distraction from work for stressed adults, allowing them to unplug from the real world while enjoying time with their families. This type of quality time effortlessly builds emotional connection and teamwork.
1. Moore KA, Kinghorn A, Bandy T. Parental relationship quality and child outcomes across subgroups. April 2011. Child Trends site. https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/ uploads/2011/04/Child_Trends-2011_04_04_ RB_MaritalHappiness.pdf. Accessed July 30, 2020.
2. How to Get Your Family Active. American Heart Association site. April 18, 2018. https://www.heart. org/en/healthy-living/fitness/getting-active/how- to-get-your-family-active. Accessed July 20, 2020.
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;2018:55–117.
4. Fun Ways for Older Adults to Stay Physically Active. National Institute on Ageing site. April 3, 2020. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/fun-ways-older- adults-stay-physically-active#dime. Accessed July 30, 2020.
5. 12 Benefits of Walking. Arthritis Foundation site. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/ healthy-living/physical-activity/walking/12- benefits-of-walking. Accessed July 30, 2020.
6. Darnton J, and McGuire L. What are the physical and mental benefits of gardening? Michigan State University Extension. May 19, 2014. https://www. canr.msu.edu/news/what_are_the_physical_ and_mental_benefits_of_gardening. Accessed July 30 2020.
7. Luzak A, Karrasch S, Thorand B, et al. Association of physical activity with lung function in lung-healthy German adults: results from the KORA FF4 study. BMC Pulm Med. 2017;17(1):215.
8. Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA. Exercise and respiratory tract viral infections. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2009;37(4):157–164.
9. World Health Organization site. Global strategy on diet, physical activity and healthhttps://www. who.int/dietphysicalactivity/physical_activity_ intensity/en/. Accessed 30 JUL 2020.
10. Purdue University Extension site. Cooking as a Family. https://www.eatgathergo.org/gather/ cooking-as-a-family/. Accessed 30 JUL 2020.
11. Zander M. The Surprising Benefits Your Kids
Get from Playing Board Games. Scholastic site. November 22, 2019. https://www.scholastic.com/ parents/kids-activities-and-printables/activities-for-kids/arts-and-craft-ideas/benefits-board-games.html. Accessed July 30, 2020.