Celebrating Family Health and Fitness Day

with advice from Josh McDonald, OTR/L, MS and Mark Salandra, CSCS

Americans young and old have been gaining weight and slowing down. A report on physical activity and health from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office in the late 1990s found that “nearly half of young people aged 12-21 are not vigorously active on a regular basis” and that more than 60% of adults aren’t as active as they should be.

(A more recent study in 2010 didn’t show any improvement, finding that only 15% of high school students achieve the recommendations set by the CDC for physical activity.)

Family of Asian descent -- a little boy, his father and grandfather -- all riding bicycles together.

These findings led to the creation of Family Health and Fitness Day on September 28, a celebration marking its 17th year in 2013 that celebrates activity for the whole family.

Why is this something Americans should commemorate? “Staying healthy as a family provides motivation to all members, and it increases support for the members of the family that are not as motivated for physical activity,” says Mark Salandra, CSCS, the founder of StrengthCondition.com (one of Physiquality’s partner programs). He adds that daily physical activity should be as routine as brushing your teeth or any other healthy activity you do for your body every day.

Family of mom and dad and two daughters prepares a healthy meal with fresh vegetables in the kitchen.

Activity expert Josh McDonald reminds parents that every action is a lesson for children. “If we want our children to value healthy and active lifestyles, then we need to model those choices for them,” says Josh, an occupational therapist at Kid’s Place, a clinic for children run by Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy (a Physiquality network member with two locations in Arizona).

He encourages parents to make good choices for the entire family. By turning off the television and taking them out to play catch, by enrolling them in sports and camps, or by gathering everyone for a bike ride, parents are showing their children the value of health and wellness. As a parent, he notes, “When I initiate healthy decisions for myself, and I include my kids in those decisions, I establish lifelong patterns that they will carry with them into adulthood.”

Family of a mom and dad and two children walking down a hill.

The easiest way to be active with the family is to take a walk. The CDC recommends walking at least 10,000 steps a day, Mark notes. Why not strive for that goal with a daily walk after dinner? It’s a way to burn off some of the calories in your meal while continuing discussions started around the dinner table.

There are lots of ways to make healthy choices with your family, but Josh reminds parents that the responsibility for such healthy choices starts with them. “These decisions aren’t always easy,” he notes, “but the benefits are immense for both the parents and the children.”

Thank you to our contributors:

Josh McDonald, OTR/L, MS, is an occupational therapist at Kid’s Place, a physical, occupational and speech therapy clinic for children run by Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy, a Physiquality network member with two locations in Arizona.

Mark Salandra, CSCS, is the founder of StrengthCondition.com, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. Salandra educates and trains athletes young and old in strength and conditioning, with the goals of better fitness and lower rates of injury.

Youth physical activity guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 19, 2013.

Winter fitness with the family. Physiquality, December 17, 2012.

O’Riordan, Michael. Exercise, regardless of amount of sedentary time, reduces risk factors in kids. Medscape, February 15, 2012.*

Physical activity and health: A report from the U.S. Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 17, 1999.

* Note: Access to articles requires free registration.

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