How Fitness Helps Build Strong Parent-Child Relationships
No matter what the reason for exercising — whether training for a marathon or just generally trying to remain in shape — physical fitness has plenty of health benefits. It increases a person’s metabolism, endurance, energy, muscle strength and works off calories and fat.
Exercising also has mental health benefits, such as increasing the production of endorphins— a feel-good chemical in the brain — relieving stress by releasing energy, and raising self-esteem due to improved physical appearance and meeting goals.
However, it’s easy to neglect exercise when our lives become busier. Household responsibilities such as laundry or paying bills are often prioritized. Long days at work, spending time with family, or keeping up a social life can take up most of the time in a day. Additionally, sometimes people are just too fatigued to want to do something that requires a heavy amount of physical exertion.
One such time when fitness could take a back seat? When people become new parents.
Newborns require a lot of attention, and that attention takes priority over everything else. So it’s understandable if there just isn’t enough time in the day — or energy left in the body — to head to the gym or go for a 3-mile run. The responsibilities associated with parenting don’t get much lighter as a child gets older, either. Soon enough the day is filled with driving kids to daycare and school, attending their friends’ birthday parties, and helping them with homework. However, parents are often taught to lead by example, and setting an example that physical health is important can not only benefit a child but also strengthen the long-term health of a parent-child relationship.
Like Parent, Like Child
Kids like to imitate their parents, no matter if they are mirroring bad or good behavior. Children look to their mothers and fathers to learn what they should do or say, often because they look up to their parents. So if a parent lets out swear words while driving, the child in the backseat might take note. If a parent spends a lot of time cleaning dishes, the child might want pretend they are cleaning dishes on the kitchen floor next to the parent.
The same philosophy goes for exercise. If a child sees their parent or both parents participating in yoga, going to the gym or for a jog, or playing a team sport, they are likely to become interested in those activities. Even if a child can’t lift weights at the gym, they might be able to do their own version of some physical activities alongside their mother or father. Thus, a parent making exercise a part of their routine can lay the foundation for an active lifestyle within their children.
Exercise Becomes a Family Activity
Once exercise becomes an integral part of a child’s life, there are more opportunities for parents and children to spend time together. As kids age, they become old enough to participate in physical activities with their parents.
Sylvia Rimm, the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, said that these opportunities shouldn’t be taken for granted because exercising together is a way for people to bond.
“It really bonds families,” Rimm said in an article on the Deseret News website. “Kids aren’t as oppositional; they feel a closeness to their parents, and they are able to identify with their parents as more than working people.”
Maybe it’s playing a sport such as baseball, football or basketball. For some, it could be jogging or lifting weights. Yoga, swimming or riding a bicycle are other forms of exercise that children can partake in along with their parents. Not only does this help a child’s physical health but it also results in more time spent with their parents. Even an activity such as playing catch or riding bikes through the neighborhood can be a shared experience that strengthens a relationship.
Happy Days For Everyone
When someone exercises, whether it’s an extreme workout such as Crossfit or a light jog, they improve their mood by releasing endorphins. Physical fitness has long been linked to mental wellness, especially in combatting anxiety and depression. However, exercising isn’t just about preventing a mental illness but also making people feel better, and potentially more enjoyable to be around.
The positive effects exercise can have on a person’s mood can benefit a parent’s relationship with their child. If both are happier after a workout, they’ll enjoy one another’s company even more, which could result in better experiences with one another and a more positive relationship.