Physical activity is important at any age, not only for weight management, but also for prevention of some diseases, improved mood, and improved overall health. While you may have stressed the importance of activity for your kids as they were growing up, once they’re out of the house there’s a lot less control you have over what they’re up to. And that’s normal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to encourage healthy behaviors. Here are five ways to do that, without intruding on their independence.
Be active yourself
Pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert says the best predictor of your child being physically active is being physically active yourself. Continuing to model that behavior is important, even when they’re out of the house. On a call catching up? Mention that you went for a run or tried a new aerobics class.
Make family activities active
Whether they’re in town visiting or still living in the same area, make the time you spend together active. Schedule a gym date, walk in the park, or game of basketball to catch up instead of something more sedentary like going to the movies or to get coffee. Consider taking part in a fun, low-stakes competitive event, like a Turkey Trot, when you’re together for holidays.
Know what school fees cover
If your teen is enrolled in college, make sure school fees include access to student gyms or recreation centers. Then, encourage your student to take advantage of those options. Exercise can be a great way to meet new friends, and it can be great for stress reduction.
Consider gifts that require activity
If your teen isn’t on a college campus or doesn’t have access to a free gym, consider giving a gift of a gym or exercise class membership. Be mindful of activities your teen likes to do, and gift accordingly. Were they into dance in high school? A package of classes at a local studio could be a great gift. At-home workout videos can also be an inexpensive way to gift physical activity. Fitness trackers with group interaction can be another great gift for the whole family. You can compete to see who gets the most steps in a day.
Encourage active commutes
Even a small amount of added exercise can make a big difference. Whether they’re going to class or to a job, your teen has to get there. Taking public transportation can be a great way to get some additional movement in a daily routine because it usually requires walking to get to the bus or train. In some cities, there are bikes that can be picked up and dropped off throughout the city as another active alternative to driving. If your teen had a bike at home, encourage them to take it with them after high school. Biking to class or work is another great way to get some additional movement into the day.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Dr. Jayne Greenberg, District Director, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Dr. Natasha Burgert, Pediatrician, Pediatric Associates.