Walking as a family can be a truly beneficial activity from more points of view. This can be a great way to exercise and increase the level of physical activity for you and your small ones, spend time in nature and breathe the fresh air, create lovely memories and connect as a family. If you’re a regular walker, this can also be an effective method to bring more variety and excitement to your standard walking routine.
Planning a regular family walk may not be easy. Not only us, as adults, have to deal with busy schedules. Children too. School, homework, chores… But it’s truly important to find the time for this type of family activity. Here’s why:
Fight Off Children Obesity
The sad truth is that children and adolescents are becoming less and less physically active these days. The addiction to TV, computers, video games or smartphones is, unfortunately, keeping them inside and inactive. The statistics are scary:
- 38 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2019
- over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016
Luckily this is a preventable issue. We can step in and take the necessary measures. Help them develop and maintain healthy eating habits and, equally important, make sure they engage in regular exercise such as walking for instance. Walking is a great physical activity because it’s easy to do, it doesn’t require special skills and it’s low impact. Done on a constant basis and in a fun manner, it will most surely keep your small ones away from the toxic screens and improve their overall health.
Strengthen the Family Bond
Going on a family walk can be a great way to strengthen the bond between family members. Spending time outdoor in the middle of nature, far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, can be truly healing for a family. According to researchers from the University of Illinois, a simple 20-minute walk in a natural surrounding can help us improve our relationships and reconnect as a family.
Scientists have shown that, during a walk in the lovely outdoors, individuals’ attention is gradually being restored. This means that they feel less fatigued mentally, they are less moody, have more self-control and are truly aware of the presence and of the emotions of those surrounding them. This state leads to a better interaction between family members at that specific moment and to a better and stronger relationship in time.
We all know that walking in a green environment is extremely beneficial for adults from a mental perspective. Going for a stroll in a green area has proven to be an effective method to combat stress and anxiety, to improve sleep quality and individuals’ overall state of mind. But this activity is great not only for adults.
Going for a walk with your children in the middle of nature can do wonders for their mental health. According to a research conducted by the University of Derby, spending time in nature can help children increase their self-esteem and unleash their creativity. Another study, conducted by the Department of Conservation in New Zealand, showed that taking a walk in nature helps our little ones raise their confidence, fight off stress and adversity and improve their concentration, learning abilities and self-awareness.
Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease
Walking can be an effective way to reduce the risk of a series of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes or various forms of cancer. Of course, engaging in this aerobic exercise every now and again won’t get you anywhere. In order to really enjoy the benefits of this activity you need to do it regularly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every adult should engage in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day. The same source recommends that children and adolescents do 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity on a daily basis. By meeting these recommendations you’ll keep yourself in good shape and allow your kids to grow up strong and healthy.
Develop Healthy Bones
Childhood and adolescence are considered by experts essential periods when it comes to bone development. This is the time when most bone mass is being acquired: up to 90% is gained by the of age 18 in girls and by the age of 20 in boys. That’s why it’s extremely important to pay the proper attention to the matter and help our young ones create habits that keep their bones healthy.
A proper diet with the necessary amount of calcium is mandatory. In addition to that it’s essential to do weight-bearing exercises on a regular basis. Just like muscles, bones become stronger when we activate them. So what can you do? Well, there are numerous options. Take a hike with your children, go for a brisk walk, go dancing, play tennis or basketball. These are all weight-bearing exercises that will contribute to an increased bone density and hence to healthy bones for a longer period of time.
Make your Family Walk Fun
If you want your kids to turn walking into a habit, you’ll have to make this activity as enjoyable as possible for them. Once they’ll start taking delight in their family walks, they’ll most surely be more willing to unplug from their TV, computer or phone screens and step outside. Here are some ways you can make walking a fun activity:
- Nature exploring walk. Going on such a walk can be an opportunity to have fun and, at the same time, to learn new things. This is a great way for children to discover what nature is all about: wild flowers, trees, birds, and to see, smell or hear something completely new and exciting.
- Scavenger hunt. This is guaranteed to make the walk more enjoyable. You can make your little ones search for a variety of things around them: leaves with two colors, pinecones, acorns, certain type of rocks or flowers and so on.
- Play games. You can’t go wrong with this one. Depending on your kids’ ages, you can play hide and seek, I spy, capture the flag, throw a frisbee. The options are numerous.
- Choose an interesting route. To avoid monotony, plan your route carefully. Make sure that your walk is not linear, rather meandering, that is made for adventure and includes going both uphill and downhill.
- Take another family with you. Kids are in general jovial and outgoing and love each other’s company. Having other kids around them during a walk will lead the way to a series of fun challenges: who can run faster, who can climb trees the fastest and so on.
- Rewards. If you want to end your walk on a high note, you can prepare various rewards for your small ones. This will definitely make them happy. It can be anything you want, from healthy snacks to various treats you know they’d enjoy.
Tip: Track your Walks
Keeping track of your physical activity can be truly useful. It can help you understand your current fitness level, watch the progress along the way and find the motivation to stay active until your reach your goals. You can also turn it into a fun activity for children. For instance you can have them guess how many steps they will take during their nature walk.
In order to track your walks you don’t really need to purchase an additional gadget like a Fitbit. It’s enough to download a pedometer app on your phone, like our own ActivityTracker, and you’re good to go. With just a few taps you’ll be able to see all the important metrics: your step count, the distance covered, the calories burned or the total time spent physically active. You’ll also have the chance to set your own goals, to easily share your results with friends and family and determine them to get off the couch and start walking more.