Many of us live in environments that make it easy to be sedentary, and inconvenient to be active. For example, communities are typically designed around the automobile, social customs revolve around food, and technologies have given us countless labor-saving devices both at work and at home. With all that in mind, it would seem weight gain is almost inevitable. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) support that view as studies show that not only are Americans of all ages gaining weight and slowing down, but 17 percent of children and 35 percent of adults are obese.

“Family Health & Fitness Day USA” always the last Saturday in September, is a national event created in response to the CDC findings. It’s all about getting families involved in physical activity. This year, an estimated 10,000 families are expected to participate in some 500 local activities. If you happen to live in a community without an event you can still participate in this fun-filled day! Family size does not matter - small or large, all are invited to be a part of the campaign to get up and get moving.

Healthy activities you can do with your family that are great for all ages include:

Apple Picking - Oklahoma has many apple trees in season this month. Picking apples has a tremendous amount of health benefits including hiking, climbing, and of course, fruit picking. All help build strength and increase endurance. Plus, fresh picked apples make a great snack! Make it a Swim Day - Swimming is great form of exercise as well as an important safety skill. City recreation centers often have special deals on family membership packages. Even going once a week can provide exercise and family time together. Obstacle Course - an obstacle course is fun for all and can be easily set up anywhere, including backyards or parks. Use items you already own to create obstacles such as hula-hoops, tires, ladders, bucket, toys, etc. Dance party - music with dancing is a fun way to get exercise without it feeling like exercise. Clear the room, turn on your favorite tunes, and bust a move with your family!

Aside from these special activities, there are many other ways to help get your family up and moving more. Try these:

Take the stairs instead of the elevator Go for a family walk after dinner Park further from the store and walk Take up gardening Wash the car by hand Do sit-ups, bicep curls or jumping jacks in front of the TV Walk instead of drive whenever you can

Parents often sign their kids up for physical programs but don’t always make the connection that what they model impacts their children’s actions and attitudes. When parents don’t engage in some type of physical activity, they send their child a message that physical activity is not important, especially later in life. This can give them a skewed perception of what is healthy. When parents and kids are active together, it benefits them both in mind, body, and spirit, and helps to instill a new standard. Physical activity helps to relieve tension, anxiety, depression and anger, and increases strength, stamina and the body’s ability to function well. Additionally, children who get regular physical activity do better in school, have greater self-control, and fewer behavioral issues.

Take advantage of the many health and fitness programs offered in your community or create your own. Exercising together as a family helps children develop good habits early that can last a lifetime. What will your family do together?

To learn more about “Family Health & Fitness Day USA”, visit http://www.fitnessday.com/family/.

Sean Bridges is Health Educator for the Delaware and Ottawa County Health Departments.