Walking with Family

One of the best ways to add fun to your walking routine is by walking with family. Like walking buddies, family members can boost your motivation -- they may be even better than friends at nudging your conscience to keep you in the swing of things when you'd just as soon take a day off or give up altogether.

One pleasant ritual you may want to introduce your family to is a relaxing evening amble in the twilight. Be sure to wait awhile after dinner, however, especially for a brisk walk. It's best to avoid strenuous exercise for at least two hours after eating.

If you're going to add variety to your own routine by making walking a family affair, be sure to bring the kids along. You may think, "I don't have to worry about the kids -- they get lots of exercise."

Although it is true that they probably do get more exercise than you, consider these questions: How much time do your children (or younger siblings, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren) spend watching television, playing video games, or staring at the computer screen rather than riding their bikes or playing tag?

While the kids may attend gym classes at school, are they really participating in aerobic activity? Do your children walk to school or do they get there by bus or car?

You may be raising your children to lead sedentary lives. Studies have shown that children mimic their parents' behavior, so if you've been sedentary, then in effect you may be teaching your children to be less active as well.

You also play an important role when it comes to your children's attitudes about television and automobiles. Most kids in the United States spend over four hours each day watching television. If your television is turned on most of the time, your children may learn passive leisure. They may grow up to be "couch potatoes."

At some time during each day, you might want to assert yourself and turn off the television and computer. While they electronic entertainment is off, encourage walking and other fun, physical activities.

As for your car, keep it in the garage and take it out only when trips really call for it. By relying less on your car, you will be teaching your children to build walking permanently into their lives. Some families that have tried this have become so wrapped up in walking that they now proclaim a "no-car day." On that day, no one can use the car except for an emergency.

In far too many schools, if physical education is still offered, the emphasis is placed on athletics for the gifted few rather than for everyone. To compound the problem, physical education and athletics generally focus on team sports rather than on potentially lifelong activities such as walking.

And what's even worse, burnout from participation in school athletics may even discourage future activity. How many times have you seen a coach discipline players by having them run laps or do push-ups as punishment for misbehavior or an error on the playing field? This punitive approach may actually discourage fitness.

In addition to adding variety to your routine, involving your children in your walking program is a great way to set an example for them and encourage them to develop and maintain physical fitness for the rest of their lives. Walking with your children also provides an opportunity for extra talking, sharing, and learning.

There's another advantage to walking as a family. Often, it's difficult for a family to pick an activity that everyone can participate in. Each family includes people of various ages, shapes, sizes, and levels of physical fitness.

Not every family member will have the same skills in skiing, tennis, golf, or basketball. However, even toddlers can walk, and when they get tired, they can be placed in a stroller or baby sling.

Go to the next page to learn more about walking with children.

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