How to find time to exercise more as a family (and why it’s so important)

April 23, 2014

By Nina Gannes and Robin Raskob

Let’s face the facts: it is really hard to find time to exercise. In particular for parents, the responsibilities of raising kids always seem to take priority — from driving carpools to grocery shopping to getting the kids in bed on time — when we finally find a moment to ourselves, our first instinct is sitting down and taking a break (while simultaneously answering that work email on our smartphone!). Moving is just off the radar. And that is normal, and so understandable.

Here’s the thing, though, and if you remember one thing from this blog post, it’s this: physical activity is just as important as everything else on your to-do list. Seriously. Even the President famously finds time to play basketball. If he’s got time to move, you do to.

Over and over again, research shows physical activity is critical to health. For instance, moderate exercise can improve cholesterol levels, manage high blood pressure, boost energy, help manage stress, increase muscle strength, even improve the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well. Exercise releases proteins and endorphins that work in the brain to improve our ability to concentrate and make us feel happier. Physical activity is at the top of every list of modifiable risk factors — things you can do to reduce your chances of getting non-communicable (“lifestyle”) diseases, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Simply put, incorporating exercise into your daily routine is going to help you and your kids live longer. That’s why we call exercise the “wonder drug.”

By the way, if you find this research interesting, we recommend you follow Gretchen Reynold’s phys ed column on the New York Times for new research on the benefits of physical activity every week.

So how do we fit exercise into our crazy non-stop lives? Health educators recommend developing something called a SMART goal. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. You can even develop SMART Goals for your whole family, shifting physical activity out of the “me-time” category and into the “family-time” category. Check out the below example to see what we’re talking about, and use it to develop your own family SMART Goal.


As you can see, SMART Goals make it easier for you to make small changes in your behavior that lead to longer-lasting, bigger changes. If you want to learn more about SMART Goals, a good starting point is this Wikipedia article on the SMART Criteria. And once you’ve figured out your own SMART Goal, try pinning it to your refrigerator door. After all, it’s much easier to work on something when you’re reminded of it on a regular basis.

So youmomkids know physical activity is important, and you have a SMART plan for how to get your family moving. Remember to check-in with yourself along the way, adjust your goal if necessary, and reward yourself for a job well done. Take a tip out of Virna McKinney’s book: Virna used a Zamzee activity tracker and set a SMART Goal of walking around the track at her kids’ school for an hour a day, every single weekday. Eventually she walked enough to get a free Wii U from Zamzee for her family! While the Wii U is certainly fun, more importantly Virna lost 30 pounds, her kids changed their attitudes about physical activity, and together as a family Virna and her kids are on their way to a healthier and happier life. Now that’s a goal worth walking for.


What motivates you to get your family physically active? And how do you find the time? Let us know in the comments below!



Nina and Robin think about ways to get families active every day at Zamzee, The Game That Gets Kids Moving. Zamzee is an activity tracker and website designed to increase kids’ physical activity and make moving fun. Research by HopeLab and the Robert Wood Johson Foundation shows Zamzee increase kids’ physical activity by 59%!