Creative Commons License photo credit: Spree2010

Exercise and Physical Fitness: What is Our Responsibility as Parents?

by Guest Blogger, Tim Huntley, Soil to Sustenance Blog

Nearly four years ago, my wife Jenny and I discovered the Weston A. Price Foundation and Nourishing Traditions. To say that we radically reformed our vegetarian diet would be a huge understatement. Instead of purchasing convenience foods, we now spend many hours each week growing vegetables, milking our Jersey cow, making bone broth, and slow-cooking grass-fed meat.

Jenny and I believe that our job as parents is not only providing healthy meals, but teaching our boys how to make good food choices for themselves.

But what about exercise and physical fitness? Clearly we expect our kids to be active, but do we have a responsibility to set a good example and be active ourselves?


How to Move from Sedentary to Active Fitness

Unfortunately I am the poster child for a sedentary life, not a role model for physical fitness. With the exception of a scant few of my 44 years, I haven’t exercised regularly and my daily activities do not demand very much physically. And in spite of how logical it seemed to exercise, I kept a list of excuses close at hand.

“I don’t have time.” Or “It seems selfish to take time away from the family.”

“Exercise is boring and monotonous.”

“The gym is too far away.”

I don’t know, maybe we have it hard-wired into the brain to take the easy way out, or maybe we don’t perceive exercise as fun.

Maybe that’s the problem.

Involve Your Whole Family in Physical Activity

The answer for Jenny and me has been to integrate exercise into family life. We have both adopted Mark Sisson’s primal blueprint and spend about 20 minutes 2 times per week “lifting heavy things” – body weight exercises like pushups, squats and plank. With this short, high intensity workout we both have seen rapid improvements.

And on off days, we make time to walk together.

And finally, we run – or rather we have sprint contests and relay races with our sons. When is the last time you ran all out for 10 to 20 seconds? Can you still outrun your kids? I promise you will rediscover muscles you forgot even existed. And the beauty of sprints is that you reap the benefits for many hours after you are done exercising. Honestly, this isn’t only exercise, it is quality family time! According to a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, a child’s perception of parental support is significantly associated with physical activity involving children AND parents.

I am not suggesting that everyone adopt the same approach. You may prefer a structured class environment like yoga or Pilates, or maybe you have a desire to test your limits in a program like Crossfit. There are lots of ways to increase physical activity.

Elizabeth Walling at The Nourished Life has a great post about increasing movement in day-to-day activities. Examples include looking for ways to park further away from the store entrance when shopping, or taking stairs (like the folks in the video) instead of the escalator.

So take your dog for a walk, ride a bike with your children, chase after squirrels, or whatever makes you feel like a kid. Physical fitness isn’t just about a maintaining a healthy weight and body image; it is about setting the right example by making exercise a priority in your own life.


Tim Huntley

A former software entrepreneur, Tim Huntley now spends his days as a part-time farmer, beekeeper, and blogger. He writes about his “Adventures in Farming, Food, and Nutrition” at Soil to Sustenance.

This post is part of the Real Food Wednesday blog carnival on Kelly the Kitchen Kop blog!

Thanks, Tim, for this great post! Do you have a weight loss or exercise idea to share? Please consider a guest blog for Hartke is Online! Contact: kim dot hartke at gmail dot com.