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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

How to Be a Good Fitness Role Model

By Sandi Schwartz

Staying fit is critical to our health and well-being, including our mental health and happiness. We can help shape our children’s views on exercise by modeling healthy behavior and making fitness a fun part of our family’s daily routine.

Exercise Reduces Stress

Experts have found a clear link between exercise and stress reduction. Exercise… 

Produces endorphins. When we exercise, our body releases feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. These chemicals in our brain act as natural painkillers, making us feel better and less stressed. Endorphins are responsible for the natural high we get from a hard workout.

Reduces stress hormones. Exercise reduces the level of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, helping us feel calmer.

Minimizes fatigue. Exercise improves blood flow and our body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently. These changes in our brain then reduce fatigue and improve alertness, concentration, and cognitive function. 

Improves self-esteem. When we gain strength and begin to see a difference in our body, we feel better about ourselves and become happier and more confident. 

Provides a fun distraction. One of the best parts about exercise is that it gives us time to take a fun break from daily stressors. Whether you are jogging to your favorite upbeat music or socializing with friends on the tennis court, your mind is distracted and you can just have a good time.

Makes sleeping easier. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can also improve how we sleep. This is great news for those suffering from insomnia due to stress and anxiety.

Encourages mindfulness. A great bonus of exercise is that it provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy a mindful moment. While we work out, we can fully engage in the present moment instead of letting our mind run wild with worries. To get the best result, experts suggest doing rhythmic activities that engage the whole body, such as running, walking, swimming, dancing, rowing, or climbing.

Be a Good Role Model 

It’s so important that we play actively with our kids and that we consistently exercise in front of them (and sometimes with them) to show them how important physical fitness is. From going on family bike rides to coaching one of their sports teams, there are so many helpful ways to be fitness role models to children throughout their lives. Here are some more ideas to get you moving:

Go for a hike outdoors. Not only are walks and hikes wonderful, safe exercise that the entire family can enjoy, they are also an opportunity to connect to the calming beauty of nature. To add some fun to your family hikes, turn them into a race or scavenger hunt, or venture to new parks and trails in your area and while on vacation.

Take a yoga class together. Yoga offers so many incredible benefits, including balance and strength training, time for inner focus, and an opportunity to connect with our bodies in ways we aren’t used to. Sign up for a yoga class that you can take with your kids (Sonoma County Library offers online yoga classes for youth and adults), or pop in a video or load an app so you can do some yoga together in your living room, or better yet in your backyard.

Make exercise a priority even in bad weather. Show your kids that you still go on your morning run even if it’s not sunny outside. On days when it’s cold or rainy, set up your fitness routine indoors and get your kids involved. Put on a workout video and have them join in. There are also lots of fun ways to use your indoor space to get everyone moving. Some of the easiest exercises to perform indoors include jumping rope and calisthenics such as push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks. Or put on some peppy music and play freeze dance or have a hula-hoop contest. Before you know it, you will all be working up a sweat!

Give sports-related gifts. Another way to make fitness a priority in your home is to choose gifts such as workout clothes, sports equipment, and how-to books about sports. Or buy tickets to a sporting event and cheer on your team together.  

Sandi Schwartz is an author, journalist, and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. Her new book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer, comes out in the spring. Learn more at