Get active: Guide to family fun


In this article:

  • Sports medicine doctor Mark Matusak, D.O., explains why it’s important to be active as a family.
  • We offer some ideas for how you can incorporate exercise into your family activities.
  • Learn how much both you and your children should be exercising each week.

Get active: Guide to family fun

The weather is beautiful, school is out for the summer — it’s time to get your whole family moving! If you already have an active family, that’s great. But if you need a few ideas and motivations for getting your blood pumping, Providence has you covered. We spoke with Mark Matusak, D.O., a sports medicine doctor with Providence Medical Institute, about why activity is good for a healthy life, and how you can make the most of your summer.

The importance of exercise

Dr. Matusak stresses that an active lifestyle has many great advantages. “Not only do exercise and outdoor play provide benefits for children’s physical health,” he says, “they can also benefit sleep and mental health. Organized sports or free play with others build social skills and confidence and reduce your kids’ time in front of a screen.”

And it’s not just children who benefit. “Parents play a key role in creating an environment that supports physical activity in youth,” says Dr. Matusak. “By joining in on the fun, parents can reap similar benefits for better health. If you’re an adult without children around, you can get started by finding free fitness groups or joining a neighborhood fitness studio or gym.” 

How do you exercise when your kids have more endurance than you?

As your children (and you) grow older, it’s inevitable that they’re going to be able to do more than you can. So how do you keep up?

Dr. Matusak has some suggestions: “Any variety of athletic equipment can come in handy here,” he says. “Parents can take a swing at the ball while the kids field. Your child can play goalie — rushing back and forth — while you take your free kick. And while I recommend human-powered bicycling, especially for children, if you need to supplement your ride with some battery power to keep up with those churning legs of our youth, the e-bike will let you take advantage of the outdoors together. Just remember to bring your helmet.”

How to get the family moving

If you’re not sure how to start being active as a family, here are a few pieces of advice from Let’s Move, the Obama White House initiative to help kids in America become and stay healthy:

  1. Set goals – Work together as a family to set goals, such as being active for 30 minutes a day, three days a week.
  2. Schedule your activity – You have busy lives, and if you don’t schedule something, it may not happen. Choose days of the week when everyone is more likely to stick to the schedule.
  3. Track your activity – A calendar can make a world of difference when it comes to motivating your family. Write down your schedule, and then check off each activity that you’ve accomplished.
  4. Share your ideas with others – One big motivator for many families is sharing their adventures on social media. You can even share your goals to keep yourself accountable in a public arena.

Ideas for family fitness

So, you’ve gotten to step two, schedule your activity, but you’re not sure what activity might be best for your family. Here are some ideas:

  1. Sign up for a community race, physical competition or walk/run. At any given time, there are many different community events that can get you moving, such as a walk to cure cancer or a run to battle childhood illnesses. Make a goal to sign up for a family outing at least one or two events each month. 
  2. Schedule a weekly game or sport night. Find a day of the week that works for all members of your family, and plan to play soccer, volleyball or another sport. You can take turns picking the sport you will play.
  3. Turn household chores like shoveling snow, raking leaves or working in the yard into competitions. This accomplishes the dual purpose of getting things done and getting your family moving!
  4. Play a dancing video game. Such games can bring out the competitive nature in family members and elevate their heart rates.
  5. Walk instead of driving. For example, if your family is going out to eat, discuss whether you can walk there and back. When driving is the only option, you can still park in the back of the parking lot and walk more to get to the door.
  6. Go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Put together a list of items that everyone in your family has to find, and then set them loose!

“No matter how you move,” says Dr. Matusak, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children and adolescents get 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes per week of more intense activity, like running or cycling, combined with resistance training.”

Take the plunge and get your family moving. It’s great for your mental and physical health, and these healthy habits will help your family bond more, too.

Contributing caregiver

Mark Matusak, D.O., is a sports medicine doctor with Providence Medical Institute. He sees adult and pediatric patients in Torrance and San Pedro, California. 

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions. 






 [K1]Carli: I probably would not have made this change; what you changed isn’t wrong but I kind of like “might be best” rather than the more definitive “will be best.” Either is OK, though!