The Kearns were exercising as a family even before its youngest members could walk.
Jim and Ann Kearns of Crystal Lake would bring their daughters, Maggie and Bridget, now 15 and 14, for swims in the pool at Centegra Health Bridge Fitness Center when they were babies.
The family still goes to Health Bridge — with locations in Crystal Lake and Huntley — regularly, taking advantage of the center’s family fitness times to swim, do yoga, use the equipment and stay fit together.
“It’s about living life and doing fun things with them,” Ann Kearns says of her family’s emphasis on fitness.
Make Fitness Fun
With the new year will come all sorts of resolutions regarding fitness: new gym memberships. Diets. Weight loss goals.
But for families like the Kearns, fitness goes beyond personal efforts.
Stay fit, and your kids likely will, too, even as they grow older, they say. This has become especially important as statistics involving the number of overweight and obese Americans continue to rise.
According to the American Heart Association, nine million children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight, and about 142 million adults age 20 and older are overweight.
Area health and fitness experts emphasize the need to model fitness and talk with children about the benefits of staying active.
And fitness centers offer incentives, including classes and programs geared toward children as well as children and their parents.
The family fitness program at Health Bridge allows members to bring their spouses and children to the facility during designated times. They can swim, use the track and play sports such as basketball, volleyball and kickball in the gym, says Lisa Gasior, director of operations for Health Bridge.
The center also offers camps and classes such as Zumba, yoga, karate and dance for children and teens.
“It’s endless what they can do,” Gasior says. “Especially in the winter, we have hundreds of people using the pool, taking advantage of the track.”
With programs like these, fitness can appeal to those children who aren’t necessarily interested in team sports, she says.
“What we’ve found is if you make fitness a fun part of their lives, they’ll be more likely to stay fit as they grow,” she says.
Families can bond and have conversations they otherwise might not have while working out together, she says.
It doesn’t take a center either, she adds.
Put on some music at home and have an impromptu dance night, go for a walk or a hike or take a bike ride, she says. Or, if you’re going to play video games, make them active games such as bowling and tennis that involve game systems that require movement.
“Those are really good ways to get kids on the right track to being healthy,” Gasior says.
Start Them Young
The benefits of staying fit are multiple, says Heather Miller, marketing and development director for the Sage YMCA of Metro Chicago, based in Crystal Lake.
Not only does exercise help with weight loss, but it increases energy levels, builds self confidence, offers stress reduction and improves overall health, she says.
Children need to learn at a young age why it’s important to eat healthy and exercise, she says.
“It’s extremely important for parents to talk to their kids and be a role model,” she says. “Leading by example is key. Don’t expect your kids to be healthy and make healthy choices if you as parents aren’t doing it.”
The YMCA offers numerous activities for all ages, such as swimming, Zumba, Aqua Zumba, Pilates and Kyuki-Do as well as leagues for youth basketball and indoor soccer.
Other ways families can stay fit are by creating healthy grocery lists together, preparing fruits and veggies in small baggies for quick snacks during the week and keeping a food journal and discussing it over family dinner, Miller says.
Families should set realistic, small goals and discuss them together. Making a commitment to drink an extra glass of water a day, eat breakfast, eat more veggies or stop snacking are ways to start, Miller says.
In the winter, fun activities like sledding, building a snowman, cross country skiing and taking a brisk walk can offer workouts, she says.
The Value of Family Fitness
Jim Kearns, a naprapathy doctor in Woodstock, always has inspired his wife and kids to stay active, Ann Kearns says.
He has competed in numerous triathlons, and Ann Kearns competed in her first triathlon about four years ago. Their children have each competed in triathlons as well.
“We’re very proud of them,” Ann Kearns says.
A car accident a couple of years ago has slowed her husband down a bit, she says.
“But he continues to amaze me,” she says.
The family tries to do something active every weekend, she says, and has always limited television screen time.
“My kids have jumped onto the bandwagon and are doing individual workouts,” Ann Kearns says, adding they even went for a spontaneous run the other day.
“Exercise is kind of something we’ve always done as a family, whether it be bike rides when they were little or walks,” she says.
“We’re an active family, and we try to eat healthy and we try to stay active, and that’s always been a value, and they know that.”