Staying active as we age is very important for our muscle strength, as well as reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and regulating our blood sugar. Unfortunately, it often becomes harder to make time for exercise as we get older and particularly when we become parents.
According to the BMC Public Health Journal, the transition to parenthood is consistently associated with declines in physical activity. Working parents and in particular, working mothers, are faced with major constraints to exercising. These may include family responsibilities, lack of support and scheduling conflicts. Other studies have shown that childcare and cost are major barriers for parents when it comes to integrating regular exercise into their lives.
This month, as we celebrate the International Day Of Families, we take a look at some easy, cost-effective ways to build exercise into our lives and become more active as a family…..
Whether it’s post-dinner stroll around the neighbourhood or venturing out at the weekend for an afternoon in the park, beach, forest or garden trail, walking is an activity everyone can enjoy. With the evenings getting brighter it’s the perfect time to start. And best of all it’s a free activity.
Walking is great for your heart health and there’s research to suggest it could have a bigger impact than running. It can help you manage conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness and diabetes. It can also help improve your balance.
And Ireland offers so many family-friendly options for walking. For example, the Phoenix Park in Dublin has an abundance of purpose-built roads and pathways that make it the perfect place for a family walk with a buggy.
Similarly, Ardgillan Castle, which is only 20 minutes from Drogheda, is set in spectacular parklands overlooking the Irish Sea with a fabulous view of the Mourne Mountains. And in Cork, there is the Carrigaline-to-Crosshaven trail that is a 5km path that runs along the beautiful Cork Harbour.
The pool is the perfect place for all the family to exercise and have lots of fun in the process. It’s the ideal place for young kids to become relaxed and comfortable in the water, learning how to float, tread water and swim with their parents. It’s a nice way to introduce them to the water before they start swim lessons or to help them practice their skills while they are learning.
And parents can take turns in the lanes to get a full body workout during these sessions. Exercising in water makes your body work harder so you get to exercise all the muscle groups. Swimming is one of the most effective ways to burn calories as well as lower the risk of diseases.
Furthermore, if you are worried about an injury or suffer from recurring joint or back pain, swimming is a great way to stay active without putting pressure on the joints because the water supports 90% of the body’s weight.
As the summer approaches, gardening is a great way to stay active while spending some quality time together as a family.
According to the University of Virginia, you can get a great workout by gardening. In fact, they discovered the benefits can be on par with other forms of exercise such as walking or cycling. Gardening works all your major muscle groups including the legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen.
It can involve exercises such as stretching, squatting and lifting amongst others. This leads to the strengthening of muscles and bones, burning calories and increasing flexibility.
And for the kids, gardening is a great physical development activity. They can practice locomotor skills, body management and object control. Furthermore, it’s a great activity to build bonds with children while teaching them to appreciate nature and the processes involved with growing and cultivating plant life.
Cycling builds strength, improves balance and burns calories. It offers a fantastic way to spend some quality time with the family while boosting your energy levels and reducing stress. You can ride with your kids, tandem biking or use a trailer to accommodate the younger ones.
And there has never been a better time to take it up in Ireland. There are lots of short, flat and largely traffic-free routes that are ideal for family bike rides. For a fantastic look at the seafront and a mostly flat cycleway, why not take a spin along Dublin Bay, starting with a circuit of Killiney Hill and finishing at the Ben of Howth? Alternatively, try the low-lying Ballyhoura Mountains that align the border between Limerick and Cork. Each trail has something for all levels, from beginners to experienced riders.
So why not pick one of the above and give it a try over the summer month. You will be amazed at how it can improve your fitness, in addition to carving out more quality time for you and your family. And most importantly develop some healthy habits and positive family memories for your kids in the process.
If you are interested in spending more time with your family while staying active, check out one of our family-friendly Gym Plus clubs near you. You can download a free guest pass HERE.