My name is Laura Kennett and I am originally from Detroit, Michigan. I now live in Grand Rapids and work at GrandValleyStateUniversity. I am the proud parent of two children, my daughter Carli is 8 and in 3rd grade. My son Cam is 4 and in preschool.
I have led an active lifestyle since the day I could walk. I have 12 brothers and sisters, and follow 6 boys in the lineup. I attempted to keep up with them for as long as I can remember. Another major influence in my being active since early childhood is the fact that my dad had a massive heart attack when I was in preschool. Although back then exercise was not a treatment tool, he educated himself and mandated exercise for the whole family, whether we wanted to or not. I would take long walks with him on a daily basis as part of his recovery and he would regularly drop me and my siblings at sports practices, even if we weren’t on the team. Luckily, we were all competitive and wound up liking sports. If there was one theme to my and my large family’s lives, it was education and then sports – sometimes NOT in that order.
My focus on exercise has never wavered since having kids. Yes, you have more demands on your time and your priorities might change but, I have always made time for it. If anything, with obesity and preventable disease being so prevalent, I am even more committed to setting a good example. Just like my dad, I talk with my kids on a daily basis about how important exercise is for maintaining optimal health and preventing disease. My goal is 60 minutes of physical activity for everyone is my house every day. Nutrition goes hand-in-hand with all of this so we talk about it regularly too.
My favorite type of exercise is volleyball. I prefer beach but play indoor as well. It has always been fun to play and it’s a sport I was able to play competitively with my sister so that made it even more fun. Being active with an element of competition makes it so much more interesting! Unfortunately, only 3% of the adult population participates in team sports, so it’s not easy to find others who play. I am lucky enough to find leagues where other people who love it play as well. I also enjoy running, strength training, TRX, teaching group fitness classes, biking outdoors, and hiking….just to name a few.
What have I taught my children about exercise? I have taught them it is a part of daily life, just like eating and showering and other self-care. Many people look at it like it’s something they might get to, if there is time. In our family, it’s just part of the routine. I have also started to teach them how it affects us physiologically like helping to reduce stress, improve cognition, keep or heart strong and so forth. Although my kids might seem young, they totally get it. My daughter even understands the use of tracking distance, pace and even heart rate and intensity of exercise. I never underestimate what children take in and it’s never too early to start talking about things that matter. I also teach my kids that it can be FUN! It’s not something I want them to dread. I encourage them to try different types of exercise and physical activity.
Staying motivated to keep exercising is often a struggle for people. My children are my greatest motivator. I also use exercise as a means to manage my stress and improve my mood. Rather than looking at it like it’s another stressor that I “have to do”, I look at it like it’s something I want to do and sometimes I even get some time for myself! I also look at others who are struggling with preventable health issues and realize I don’t ever want to go there. Take a look at the American culture. It’s a culture that gets cheap, convenient food that is consumed in front of electronic devices. It’s a culture that discourages physical activity and is rampant with preventable disease. It’s got an obesity rate of 30% or more with a lot of stressed out people. All of that serves as a motivator to me. I actively guard against this lifestyle, and have my dad to thank as being a role model for that. I try to do the same for my kids. Other ways I stay motivated include keeping track on a calendar just to keep me honest and to track my progress. I’m a goal oriented person so I set goals and change things up every 3 months just to keep it interesting.
I could go on with LOTS of tips to get kids moving, but I think the single greatest suggestion I could make is this: turn off the t.v (or electronic device) and make them go outside. Growing up we had one t.v. that usually wasn’t working. If it was ever on, it was a Tiger game or the Red Wings. My mom was constantly telling us, “spread out!”. Honestly, we weren’t ever inside the house much. Fitting 15 people into one small house wasn’t easy. We were outside running around until the street lights came on, or at some kind of practice. Turning off devices and kicking kids outside might meet some resistance, but I can guarantee once they are outside having fun, you will then find yourself arguing to get them to come inside. I also have to recognize that some people may not live in an area or situation that they feel safe enough to do this. If that is the case I would recommend trying to find free, after-school programs that allow for or promote physical activity. There are many parents who don’t realize that exercise is absolutely essential in order for kids to be able to manage their emotions, do well in school, and prevent illness among other things. Most of all, it’s the best means for them to HAVE FUN!
Laura Kennett manages a blog and can be reached at www.laurakennett.com or on Twitter @laurakennett
Thanks Laura!! I have known Laura for about 10 years now. She is a plethora of information on various topics. When in doubt- Ask Laura! 🙂