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9 Secrets of Active Families

Do you admire an active family? Here's how they do it.


Updated March 19, 2013

Some families make healthy living look so easy, not to mention fun. They have the same time constraints as everyone else, but they find ways to make health and fitness a priority. The good news is that all of us can adopt these active family secrets and strategies, once we know what they are.

1. Active families go outside.

Boy with backpack and parents hiking
George Doyle / Getty Images

Fresh air lifts spirits and gets bodies—big ones and little ones—moving. Start small by playing in your yard, taking a walk, or visiting a playground. Work up to longer hikes, biking, and sports like canoeing or tennis. It's all part of finding ways to enjoy physical play together and zero in on the fitness activities you all like best.

2. Active families snack smarter.

Girl eating an apple

Whether they are at home or out and about, active families try to eat healthy. That means stocking up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and packing meals or snacks to go when they are out enjoying the outdoors or shuttling from school to sports practices to Spinning class.

3. Active families have, and are, role models.

Woman running outside with dog
Stockbyte / Getty Images

In an active family, mom and dad set the tone by making healthy choices and showing their children the value of exercise by example. Active parents also have role models of their own—a sibling or friend who excels at a sport, a teacher or coach they admire, or even a neighbor who laces up her shoes for a walk every day, rain or shine.

4. Active families try new things.

Mom and child yoga, photo by Thinkstock Images
Thinkstock Images

I didn't try cross-country skiing or yoga until I was pushing 30, and now those are two of my favorite ways to work out. My daughter, at age 8, asked to join a synchronized skating team. Neither she nor I knew anything about the sport, but it quickly became a passion for her. So when a friend asks you to try a new class or bike a new trail, say yes; you might find a new love.

5. Active families think like exercisers.

Dad and boy doing push-ups by Michele Westmorland, Getty Images
Michele Westmorland / Getty Images

This one isn't easy, because it involves changing your perspective: on time, on perfection, on motivation. But if you, as a parent, can achieve this shift in outlook, you can pass it on to your offspring.

6. Active families share meals.

Mom and toddler making salad
Catherine Holecko

Shared meals are often promoted as the solution to all kinds of modern ills, from childhood obesity to substance abuse. An active family knows that there's good reason for this, and strives to eat together whenever they can. That might mean a picnic in between two soccer practices, or a hearty breakfast before a busy day (instead of dinner after one). An active family also has a repertoire of quick, healthy meals that are easy to prepare.

7. Active families make it fun.

Kids groove at an indoor dance party
Manchan/Digital Vision - Getty Images

One way to make staying active seem so easy? Make it fun. Yes, be that family that wears matching goofy T-shirts to a fundraising walk or hosts a relay race tournament in the backyard!

8. Active families do it together.

Catherine Holecko

Which child is more likely to be active: the one whose parents cheer her on from the comfort of the couch, or the one whose mom and dad jump up and play with her? Encourage activity by challenging each other to meet a fitness goal, taking a Sunday afternoon hike, or even playing a virtual game—the specifics aren't as important as doing it together.

9. Active families turn off the TV (and computers, and phones).

You knew this was coming, didn't you? While a family movie night can be a cuddly way to relax and connect, too much screen time robs your family of opportunities to play actively and enjoy each other's company.

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