Most health care providers agree that staying physically active is a good thing for people who are living with chronic pain. While people may think “if it hurts, rest it,” many pain specialists advise that people with chronic pain participate in some form of regular physical activity. This is because when the parts of the body are not moved, they lose flexibility, strength and endurance. At the same time, being active, flexible, and strong can help reduce pain.
Many people find it takes an effort to fit physical activity into their lives. Distractions include busy schedules, popular sedentary activities like video games, TV and the Internet, and the demands of day-to-day life. For most people, getting physically active on a regular basis is more difficult if they do it alone. For young families with children to care for, finding time for physical activity can seem impossible.
But think again. Becoming physically active as a family is a way to make physical activity a part of your family’s daily routine. Being active can help to manage pain and will also set a good example for children by helping them develop healthy habits. When physical activity is a family affair, children can develop healthy habits for life.
Tips to get the whole family moving:
- Make family time activity time. Set aside time to spend together as a family by picking an activity that gets people moving. Hold a hula-hoop competition before dinner, take walk or short hike, or turn up the stereo and have a family dance-off. When heading to the beach or park, pack a Frisbee or soccer ball.
- Get creative. Turn something “old and boring” into something fresh. Instead of just taking a walk after supper – make it a “treasure hunt.” List 5 – 10 items for each child to look for on their walk, a leaf, a twig, a pinecone, etc. Provide a paper bag to hold the loot.
- Celebrate with activity. Holidays and birthday celebrations are excellent times to get the whole family involved in physical activity. When organizing a celebration, consider activities that get the heart pumping, like trips to the roller skating rink or pool parties.
- Get Fido in on the fun, too. Use the family pet as an excuse to get outside and get moving. Take the dog to the park and you’ve got a built-in activity companion for your family. Pets are full of energy, and can often outrun the best of us. Put that pent-up energy to use!
- Teach kids the value of physical activity. Pushing the lawnmower across the yard or carrying laundry up flights of stairs are activities that are part of our daily routine that get the heart pumping in good ways. Let kids in on this secret as they help weed the garden or wash the dishes. Teaching kids that household chores do the body good may lead to more help around the house.
- Activity might be right around the corner. Use community resources such as schools, YMCAs, churches, and parks and recreation services to find local events for engaging in physical activity (e.g., fun walk for charity). Second hand stores, garage sales, and used sporting goods stores provide options for purchasing inexpensive equipment.
Remember, physical activity should be fun for everyone. When staying active, keep an eye on everyone in the family, children and adults to make sure the activities are right for them. By making physical activity fun, it will be easier to stay active in ways that help you manage your pain, and helps the rest of the family build healthy habits that will pay off for the rest of their lives.