Ask Our Experts: Tips for National Family Health and Fitness Day

September 24 is National Family Health and Fitness Day aimed at “promoting family involvement in physical activity.” Check to see if local organizations and family or youth centers are hosting some fun activities in your neighborhood this weekend.

For this month’s Ask Our Experts column, we asked our treasure trove of parenting and health experts, “What do you enjoy doing with your kids to ensure they maintain an active and healthy lifestyle?” – opening it up to ways to improve overall family wellness, rather just tips for fitness activities. Here’s what our experts had to share:

Young Family Riding Bikes In Park

“My favorite activity to do with 3 teenage children is to cook a large family meal. We actually do a “Thanksgiving” feast at least six times a year since it is everyone’s favorite meal. I cook the seagan entree (seafood plus vegan) while each kid makes their favorite healthy side dish. It’s way easier to get them to eat healthy when they are doing the cooking. of course, we put on some loud music in the kitchen (their choice) and dance and laugh and cook.” – Amy Cramer, co-author of Seagan Eating: The Lure of a Healthy, Sustainable Seafood + Vegan Diet

“While we enjoy getting outside for ourselves, we also wanted to shape our children into outdoors addicts for the sake of their physical and mental health. Our parenting goal has always been that we get our children outside almost daily, somehow, somewhere, even if it’s just for a short period of time, which requires awareness and active planning because, as many parents know, everyday life can really interfere. As part of this goal, we have gone hiking at least weekly with our children their entire lives – and it’s paying off! They’re starting to request – even demand – that we go hiking after long days indoors. We definitely turn to hitting the trail as a sort of group nature therapy for our entire family.” – Emily Willingham, Ph.D., co-author of The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your Child’s First Four Years

“My boys experience with food started when I dragged their high chairs next to me while I cooked; they touched and tasted everything imaginable (well, mostly my older son). From the start I involved my kids in every aspect of nourishment from shopping to putting away groceries to cooking and of course eating. We talk about food and choice all of the time. Surely some of their choices aren’t always ideal but they know when they are not—meaning they are making educated choices! And that, as far as I am concerned, is a huge accomplishment. As for being active, I have no issue there as both of my boys play sports and love the outdoors!” – Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN, author of What the Fork Are You Eating? An Action Plan for Your Pantry and Plate

“I would switch off the phones and all forms of computer for a while and put a primacy on chatting and laughing over long and fun-filled meals. If we spend time with our children, they will know they are loved. Why? Because time is the currency they value the most. Therefore, making the family a priority is important. This does not mean parents must necessarily stop doing their various tasks. It does mean that, as far as possible, they undertake these tasks with their children – be it washing the car, tending the garden or cooking the meal. Shoulder to shoulder activity is a great way of keeping a family together.” – Dr. Tim Hawkes, author of 10 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son