Sticking to an Exercise Program
Whether you're developing an exercise program for yourself or for your kids (or both—it's a good idea for everybody!), the hardest part is sticking to it. Here are a bunch of ways to build an effective program that your whole family can stay with!
Do it together: While some highly disciplined people prefer solitary exercise, most are more likely to stick with an exercise program if they do it with family or friends.
Pick something enjoyable: There are so many activities to choose from—running, swimming, power walking, cross-country skiing, aerobics classes, boxing, yoga, tai chi, etc. Be sure to choose something your family already enjoys.
Don't let competition ruin the fun: Exercise should give everyone a workout, not get them all worked up. Don't choose a competitive sport if you don't want a friendly game to turn into a death match.
Exercise at a set time each day, or at set times on specific days during the week: It's much easier to get with the program if it's scheduled into a busy life. (A simple rule to remember: If you're constantly trying to squeeze exercise in, it's going to get squeezed out.)
Start slowly: You don't have to take the family out to run 10 miles tomorrow. Aim for exercise sessions that happen consistently three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. If all they manage at first is once a week, that's still better than nothing.
Warm up: Even in-shape bodies are like cars on a cold day: They need to idle a bit before you hit the gas. Always insist on some warm-up stretches.
Cool down: The same applies to cooling down. When the human body stops suddenly after strenuous exercise, the heart continues to beat rapidly while the amount of blood reaching it drops suddenly. This can cause faintness, dizziness, nausea, irregular heartbeats or even (in the most extreme cases) a heart attack. Never approve of a program that goes from 100 mph to zero in no seconds flat. Always keep walking and moving, and structure in some cool-down stretches.
Think positively: If you or your child start to slow down with the routine, don't start in with teasing or criticism, and don't get down on your child or yourself! Instead of saying, "Stop being lazy, you slug," get back to the basics and reassert the premise: "We want to take better care of our bodies."
Monitor progress: You or your child may want to keep a record in a journal or daily planner. Write down whatever gets done each day, whether it's a 10-minute walk or a 10-mile bike ride.
Make it a habit: Get everyone to promise themselves that they'll stay with the exercise program for three weeks. According to experts, that's how long it takes to form a new habit.