Getting Your Family in Shape

They did it by joining a gym whose trainers work with the whole family. They say the regimen has changed their lives. The entire family works out daily at the Bally's Pinnacle Fitness gym that Gobin works with that provided the Will family a free membership. They work with trainers not only on exercise but on nutrition. Karen emptied her kitchen of the HoHos, DingDongs, cakes and three kinds of ice cream that once predominated. When she shops now, she spends most of her time in the fresh food aisle.

The family that once watched television and snacked together now works out together. Cutting out television wasn't hard, according to both Andrea and Julianne, because they found it more fun to do active things. But breaking the habit of pulling something sweet from the refrigerator (the girls liked sweets and Scott loved ice cream) was tougher.

"I'd go to the fridge and I'd be like, oh my gosh, there's nothing sweet to eat," says Andrea. Gradually she adjusted to the apples and other fruits her mother gave her as alternatives.

To her surprise, Karen found her girls liked foods like yogurt and cottage cheese, things she had never even thought of offering them before.

The whole family credits the staff at the gym for motivating them as well as educating them.

The Wills made it through Thanksgiving without anyone gaining a pound, simply by cutting back on their usual menu. And with their new lifestyle and support for each other, Scott thinks the weight they've taken off will be hard to put back on.

Tips for Fitness

Build in exercises wherever you can. Mary Jane Johnson points out that using an automatic garage door opener instead of getting out of the car to open the door yourself can put on five pounds a year. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther out from the shopping center. Walk over to a co-worker's cube rather than e-mail. "We're technogized," says Johnson, "we need to get energized."

Practice what you preach. Johnson says kids learn three ways: by example, by example, and by example. Exercise regularly and make wise food choices yourself. The Wills go to the gym as a family. The Dahl family in Minneapolis, Minn., is another health-conscious family that uses their gym as a springboard to fitness. Harold and Kathy Dahl work out there daily, children Michael and Madison swim, play tennis, soccer or take gymnastics through the gym.

Kids need a minimum 20 to 30 minutes of sustained exercise a day. They used to get that in school in gym and recess, but budget cuts have forced many schools to eliminate their programs. Short-term, parents have to build that in that exercise themselves. An alternative to a gym are walks after dinner, rollerblading, skateboarding and, depending on where you live, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating. Basketball, soccer, softball, swimming, skating, skateboarding, jumping rope, karate, Tae Kwan Do, are all options good for the whole family.

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