Every person’s needs are different, but there are some fitness basics every family should manage every day.

Nowadays at school, at home and even through children’s television the messages of staying active, enjoying a balanced diet and taking a positive approach to healthier living are ever present. But how active do we need to be to ensure our exercise is effective enough?


Staying active
It’s easy to let the days of the rush-around toddler slip into the less active years when the computer, television or other static pastimes absorb our older children’s concentration. There’s no need to demonise these habits so long as they are enjoyed in moderation (check out Dr Tanya Byron’s Tips for safe computer use and SuperSavvy Tips for Limiting Computer Time) and so long as your children also enjoy a good daily dose of physical fun.


• Children should do at least 60 minutes each day of physical exercise that will increase their heartbeat. This can be in the guise of a cycle ride in the morning and a runaround at the park later in the day, or in less obvious activities like having an impromptu boogie to the radio in the kitchen.


• Make up your own ‘team’ sports. Doing something together with a specific aim in mind – like scoring the most goals or doing a task faster than the other team – is a good way to get everyone running around without even noticing they are exercising! Boys and, to a lesser degree, girls will enjoy playing a basic game of football, but an improvised game of rounders is easier to manage if there are just a few of you. Use a cricket bat and a small football to play a hybrid ball game where the team who are bowling have to get the other team out whilst running between just a couple of posts – it’s easier to play in a smaller space and a bigger ball will make it easier for less skilled siblings to join in.


• Adults should spend at least 30 minutes every day doing activities that increase the heart rate. These can include swimming, gardening or even walking to work so long as you put a bit of effort into it rather than it just being a short stroll. This level of activity will begin to improve your health outlook, but increasing this to 60 minutes each day will help you start to lose weight too.


• If you want to try some new activities for a change, use a calorie calculator which will tell you how many calories a certain activity will, on average, burn up over a set amount of time. There’s a simple to use calorie calculator on the healthy eating website eatwell.gov.uk which is worth looking at.


NOTE: It’s important to remember that you should not encourage excessive exercise for intense periods of time. If you are unsure about an existing medical condition, consult your doctor about what is suitable exercise before you or the relevant member of your family embarks on a new physical activity.