February is a really busy time of year for families. There are many moving parts and a lot of admin, as young people get settled into school and sport routines for Term 1.
Most parents consider it important to encourage children to be active but find it more difficult to be active themselves. It can be hard to organise the time and energy for fitness when running a busy household. But your exercise can benefit the whole family so it’s worth finding space in your schedule.
The first way your fitness benefits the family is through role modelling. It’s no surprise that studies show a significant association between parents who exercise and children who exercise in later life. When children see parents getting up early to attend the gym or go for a run it normalizes activity as part of life. In our culture there is a huge emphasis on performing competitively at peak levels instead of exercising for enjoyment and wellbeing. Many adolescents give up sport when they do not excel, and take up far less desirable hobbies instead. You can help your teenager grow up with the expectation of participating in exercise and taking pride in their health. Just show them how it’s done.
The second way your fitness helps the family is by giving you more opportunities for involvement. It’s great to be able to take part in whatever activities the children are interested in, whether it’s getting active at the playground, going for a bike ride or running in an event. Your fitness and strength mean you can participate in any opportunity that comes your way. Coaching or assisting a coach is a wonderful way to use your fitness for your child. You can build healthy habits and happy memories while fostering a common sporting interest that could last a lifetime.
The third way your fitness benefits the family is through your improved brain function. Parents need sharp, agile brains to prioritise quickly and achieve the goals of the household. Physical activity increases blood flow to the whole body, including your brain. The greater the blood flow, the faster oxygen and other important nutrients can get where they need to be. This promotes your brain’s ability to adapt and grow new brain cells regardless of your age. Being alert, attentive and thinking clearly help you to perform at a higher level and get things done faster. The time you spend exercising is made up for in greater efficiency and effectiveness for the rest of the day.
The forth way your fitness helps the family is by boosting your mood. It gives you the energy and vitality to parent effectively. Exercise supports a healthy emotional state by promoting the release of endorphins - "happy hormones" that create feelings of wellbeing. Exercise also helps metabolize excessive "stress hormones" cortisol and adrenaline. A good workout tires you out, improving quality and quantity of sleep. Being rested puts you in a much more resourceful state to handle daily parenting challenges.
The fifth benefit of your fitness is it helps keep you alive! You need good health to fulfil your most important duty as a parent, which is to be present and available. Staying within an appropriate weight range with a base level of fitness is the best health insurance you can invest in. There are very few health conditions that are not exacerbated by too much weight and too little fitness. A healthy lifestyle doesn't guarantee you'll always be well, but it improves your odds and enhances your quality of life.
Going to the gym is one of the most convenient ways to enjoy a variety of exercise options. It’s available year-round at your convenience to fit around the demands of work and family life. Building strength and endurance has benefits far beyond your own fitness and confidence.
Leading from the front with exercise creates a climate of wellbeing where the family can enjoy activities together. The journey towards good health can be just as rewarding as the destination.