Nose in a Book, Feet on the Move: Family Fitness for Nerds and Geeks

My family is a family of geeks and nerds, and we are proud of it! We frequent comic book conventions, are book worms and own several light sabers and sonic screwdrivers.

Now that my husband and I are parents, we proudly teach our children ways of the geekdom, but we also want them to steer clear of a few of our traits, such as the fact that we are not the most athletic people. In fact, it is just safer for most parties if we avoid athletics altogether. I have been known to trip while climbing stairs, so hiking would probably be a dangerous activity for me.

As much as we encourage our kids to read and exercise their brains – how do we also teach them to exercise their bodies when it does not come naturally to us?

According to pediatrician John Sarmiento, MD, at Banner Health Center in Surprise, school-aged children should get  at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and toddlers 90 minutes.

Dr. Sarmiento recommends starting small rather than cramming so much physical activity on your child all at once.

“If an hour feels overwhelming at first, start by replacing 15 minutes of screen time each day with an outdoor activity. Grab a ball and play catch or host a game of front-yard tag. Slowly add more increments as the activity becomes part of the day’s routine,” Dr. Sarmiento notes in his column.

He also adds that implementing more physical activity in your daily activities can help, which is what my family has been trying to do.

Here are a few things we have done to get our nerdy family moving:

  • “Mom, why did you park so far away?” My kids complain now because I park further from the store or school to force us to put in some extra steps every day.
  • Walk to get the mail, instead of stopping by on the way home in our car.
  • At least 30 minutes of outside time in the morning and afternoon. While they may not be running around that entire time, at least they are being physical and getting fresh air instead of burying their noses in a book or computer screen.
  • Animal impersonations – my kids are obsessed with animals at the zoo, so I’ve been making them stand on the opposite side of our open-floor-plan house and race to me, pretending to be an animal I name. I usually pick one that will require them to hop, slither or crawl.
  • Speaking of the zoo, one of the best investments my family has made in the last two years has been an annual zoo membership. Now, some or all of us go just about once a week for roughly two hours at a time. Zoos are huge in order to give animals lots of space, and require plenty of walking. We usually pick one area to explore each week and our legs get plenty of work.
  • Let them try sports. Much as I do not care about sports, I don’t want to inhibit my children if they would enjoy them. The city I live in has a great program that allows kids to work on sports skills for six-week increments, rather than doing a full investment of time into a team season. My boys have tried basketball and T-ball. We will probably do soccer next. If they like something, they can try it again or join a team..

I went to my son’s school today where they had a “fun run” to raise money for the booster club. I was proud to see that he was able to keep pace and finish all his laps. I hope that if we continue our efforts to be active, as he grows up, he will be able to succeed not only academically, but physically as well.


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