Benefits of Implementing Physical Activity in Family Life

by Tabitha G.

What is one of the biggest influences in youth development? I will give you a hint. The first word of the question should actually be Who, not What. This ‘Who’ wants more than anything to teach their youth how to live a fulfilling life. In the next few paragraphs, I will be explaining how a physical lifestyle can benefit these kids, especially if this ‘Who’ chooses to make it a part of their own lives first.

If you haven’t guessed already, the ‘Who’ that I was referring to are the parents of these youth. A parent’s job is to teach, love and raise his or her kids. They have the role as nurturer, mentor, friend, guardian, role model and, of course, #1 fan. As for the child, growing up is a very significant time in his life. Even after he moves out of the house, most of what he has learned growing up will stick with him for the rest of his life. The writer Downward speaks on the outcome of an experiment of his, saying: “The results indicate clearly that intergenerational transfers between adults and their children can be very strong…”(Downward, Hallmann & Pawlowski, 2013). He is saying the same thing; Children are shaped by their parents’ influence. Therefore, it is very important for these parents to choose wisely what they will implement in the home, including the context of  sports and exercise.  In this blog, I will be discussing  how parental involvement in physical activity benefits their kids’ lives.

Here are the major benefits that I have found to be true, when exercise is prioritized in the family life: 1) healthy life 2) knowledge and skill 3) character development and 4) family bonding. Each one will be discussed in turn.

The first benefit of daily exercise that I will discuss is how great it is for your health. If a parent lives that out, the kids will see it, and it will influence the way they relate to exercise in their own lives.  My father is a Phys Ed teacher and my mom was a fitness trainer, so both exercised daily when I lived at home. This taught me to view exercise as a way of life, rather than a sporadic hobby, for example. The way my parents valued exercise transferred to me as I saw their dedication to it. Some commonly known benefits of exercising are reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as a longer lifespan. These benefits are mentioned by Alison While in her article. She mentions a study which found “that every additional 15 minutes of daily physical activity resulted in a further 4% reduction in mortality risk from any cause…” (While, 2011). Knowing the risks of not exercising, and seeing the dedication of your parents can greatly influence a youth’s readiness to exercise. Getting into the habit during adolescence can make a huge impact on one’s health in the long run.

Knowledge and skills are a benefit, also. Since my parents both worked in healthy lifestyle environments, they brought their assets home. Only until my Kinesiology classes in University did I realize how much I already knew about living a healthy active lifestyle, thanks to them. Even if one does not make a career out of sports and healthy living, knowledge in this area can be very useful in living his own healthy lifestyle or  teaching his own children.  Skills also come in handy when volunteering or playing with kids. On a few occasions, I have had the opportunity to teach some kids different sports skills that I had learned from my parents when I was their age.

Certain aspects of character development is another benefit that comes from a family that values exercise. The main one that pops into my head is Sportsmanship. You may be surprised to hear this, but I learned my sportsmanship skills when playing sports with my family more than I did on my sports teams. The competition was fierce between my siblings and I, and it was too easy to react in a losing situation by pouting or getting angry when there was only family around to witness it. I learned a lot from those games that I lost. Especially from my father, who taught us the mentality “winning is not everything, but try your hardest.” Some of the other assets that I learned through those games were perseverance, practice and focus.

Growing up in a family that values sport creates unique bonding opportunities. It is a way to connect with each other through a mutual interest. Family sports activities were a big way that my family grew closer. We would go to the gym with our dad, and play sports with him. With our mom, we would go biking and jogging. A couple of years ago, we rented a cottage in the mountains for New Year’s Eve, and snowshoed and cross-country skied as a family. Sports was a great way that my family could spend time together and be physically active at the same time. In Keri A. Schwab’s article, she speaks on her research, saying “Overall the results of this study reinforce the growing conviction that family leisure is an increasingly important part of healthy family functioning” (Schwab & Dustin, 2015). She, too, sees the importance of family quality time.

It is important for parents to implement physical activity in their family life because of these reasons discussed. If they do, these youth will likely have a better quality of life because of it.

References:

Downward, P., Hallmann, K., & Pawlowski, T. (2013). Assessing parental impact on the         sports participation of children: A socio-economic analysis of the UK. European Journal of Sport Science, 14(1), 84-90.

Schwab, K.A., & Dustin, D.L. (2015). Toward a model of optimal family leisure. Annals of Leisure Research, 18(2), 180-204.

While, A. (2011). Health and Happiness. British Journal of Community Nursing, 16, 462-462.

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One Response to Benefits of Implementing Physical Activity in Family Life

  1. listen2jake (Grad student comment) says:

    Elaborating on your idea that if a parent lives out daily exercise, the kids will see it, and it will influence the way they relate to exercise in their own lives. I would ask you, if a parent lives out daily exercise in such a way that does not allow their child to see it, will it really influence the way they relate to exercise in their own lives?

    Also how much did you really learn about healthy living directly from your parents. With all the avenues of media and information out there, why only now as an adult in your Kinesiology classes in University did you realize how much you already knew about living a healthy active lifestyle, thanks to your parents. Certainly you did not conceal yourself from any other sources of healthy living influences.

    I’d like to play devil’s advocate for your argument that even if one does not make a career out of sports and healthy living, knowledge in this area can be very useful in living his own healthy lifestyle or teaching his own children. One thing to keep in mind about this argument is the validity of the information being passed down. Not to discredit anyone in particular, but if we look at this scenario with the goal of passing down the best information possible, it could be argued that being taught from someone who does not know the information with 100 percent certainty could be detrimental to the pupil.

    Also some food for thought, you stated that it is important for parents to implement physical activity in their family life because the youth will likely have a better quality of life because of it. I would argue that it would be more effective for parents to implement shared physical activity in their family function in order to mimic Keri A. Schwab’s article findings “Overall the results of this study reinforce the growing conviction that family leisure is an increasingly important part of healthy family functioning” (Schwab & Dustin, 2015).

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