Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

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Right now, life in Australia is changing. The coronavirus pandemic is impacting on all areas: your workplace may have told you to work from home, your children may not be going to school, we are all adjusting to the new idea of “social distancing”.

This will be a challenging time. One of the many tests we face is how we can keep active when we are at home.

We know that physical activity is vital for better heart health.  When it comes to getting active, the Heart Foundation recommends that we all aim to do:

  • 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity each week
  • muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week

Being active at these levels can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 35%, boost your general health and your mental health.

It’s Ok to break-up the physical activity throughout your day, doing chores, moving about or taking exercise in 10-minute blocks. Remember to choose activities that you enjoy, and do them for 30 minutes or more each day.   

Around 80% of Australian adults do not meet the guidelines for physical activity, and the figures are similar for our children and young people, at 78%.

Barriers in the way of getting active

We all live busy lives: schoolwork, chores around the house, overflowing To-Do lists at work. Sometimes we are so hectic; we feel like we don’t have time to get active.

And, when we are honest with ourselves, we know there are plenty of hurdles we create for ourselves too. When it comes time to go for a walk, run, bike ride, to get to the gym or play a sport, we sometimes decide we are:

  • Too tired from work or school
  • Inundated with things to do, like shopping, tidying up, dirty washing, dishes, watching the latest “must binge” series
  • Not ready to commit to a gym membership
  • Out of motivation or ideas

Screen time can also be another barrier, with more than 80% of children spending more than two hours each day on electronic devices.

We can make it difficult for ourselves to get active. We can overcome these barriers by:

  • Being realistic about physical activity: set yourself a realistic goal, and increase it over time. No one expects you to go from sitting on the couch to instantly running a marathon. Instead, start with an achievable goal, like walking around the block
  • Be active with others: set a challenge for yourself and your friends or family members. Think about committing to 30 minutes of activity each day, or completing a specific number of steps, or playing a sport. Check-in with each other to keep yourself accountable. Think of creative ways to inspire each other, such as sharing photos or videos online (especially if your pet helps you keep active!)
  • Make activity part of your day: We are all busy, but we can build physical activity into our daily chores, such as gardening, short walking trips to school or the shops
  •  Having fun! You are more likely to do something if you enjoy it and look forward to it. Create small rewards for yourself when you are active, like walking or running or cycling to your favourite café or snuggling with your pet when you’re done

Discover surprising ways to get your family moving.

Going to the gym or putting on your running shoes might not work for everyone. So far, we have looked at barriers that can stop you from moving. Now, let’s dive into inspirational ideas that can get the whole family up and going.

You can get your kids, siblings, partners or parents moving: just offer a reward! Remember to keep your reward heart-healthy (no trips to fast food restaurants!). The prize could even lie in discovering a fun new activity or hobby that everyone can participate in.

Live baby live

Use your smartphones to document how you and your family get active. And, then share it to friends or family! You can live stream a family sports activity, a walk with your dog or 1 vs 1 on the basketball ring in the driveway.

Kids, teens and young adults already use this technology every day, so encourage them to use it in ways that benefit their heart health. Maybe they can teach mum and dad the latest TikTok dance moves?

There are also plenty of opportunities for laughs. Pick the family joker to be the “commentator”, pit the youngest member of the family against the oldest, brothers against sisters and, even, Mum against Dad. Get your giggle on, while still working your hardest to win.

Make a playlist

Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube music, the radio, it doesn’t matter. As mentioned above, use your smartphone to help you to get moving. Choose music that is inspiring, up tempo and booming with beats. Just remember to add some of Dad’s favourite from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Think of fun, active games you can play when listening to music, including Musical Chairs, Pass The Parcel (standing up), dance-offs (just watch out for the breakdancing moves) or a running race around the backyard.

Make a playlist

Sure, we mentioned playlists above, but those were musical playlists. Instead, this part of our blog is about games you can play to keep active, especially if you are home with younger children.

Write a list of their favourite games and play a few of them each day. Your list might include:

  • Pillow fights
  • Musical chairs
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Playing on swings or equipment in the backyard
  • Chasing the dog or the cat (if your pet doesn’t mind playing in this way)
  • Hide and seek
  • Piggyback rides

Jump rope

Maybe your children go to a school that joins in the Heart Foundation’s Jump Rope for Heart program. Even if your kids are not at school, you can still jump rope at home; it might bring back memories of your own childhood.

If you don’t have a jump rope, don’t worry; we have you covered.

Skipping is an easy-to-do exercise that’s great for your heart:

  • You can set your own pace, so it’s an excellent workout for people of all fitness levels
  • Plus, it’s free, and you can do it anywhere at any time
  • Jumping rope for 10 minutes gives you the same benefits as a 30-minute run
  • It’s great for your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Jump rope is easier on your joints compared with running

We can do this. Together.

Everyone is facing a challenge today. We can get through it if we support each other. Finding new ideas to get active brings new ways to bond and build better relationships: that’s going to help us create happy and healthy hearts for the long-term.