Get in shape family-style

Five tips for getting fit with your family:

It's not always easy to keep your family healthy. Sometimes there's just not enough time in the day to exercise or cook a healthy meal. However, as a LIVESTRONG.COM, Harris Interactive survey points out, family has the most influence on young people's health habits. So it's time to figure out how to help yourself and your family will take care of itself.

The same way we're taught early on to say please and thank you is the way in which we need to start instilling the value of family fitness. Two thirds of all 8-18 year olds report it's not sports stars or high-profile celebrities that have the most influence on healthy habits - it's their parental units.

So how can you get your family health to top the charts? Here are a few ideas…

Find Common Goals and Build
What does each person in your family really like to do? Find out and then base healthy family activities around those things. Too often people try to stay engaged in activities they just don't find appealing. Research shows, those who do stick with their fitness plans are the ones who actually enjoy what they are doing. So start talking to each other and then take turns doing what everyone likes to do most. Not only will your chances of success increase, but it's likely your children will appreciate you for paying attention to and acting on what they find interesting.

If You Plan It, It Will Happen
The most important part of a good plan is the strategy behind it. In these busy days, family time doesn't just happen - it needs to be scheduled in. Consider calling a family meeting to decide which days you'll exercise and what meals you'll eat with one another. By planning in advance, you'll take away some of the guesswork and be able to plan meals that can add to healthy nutrition (not to mention save money and unwanted calories). And, while you're at it, why not plan to input, as a family, your daily intake on TheDailyPlate's food diary? Tracking your food has been shown to be a great motivator towards weight loss.

Help Yourself, Help Others
The buddy system is proven to help people succeed in their fitness goals. So buddy up within your family and find like-minded people who are doing the same. Creating a family group on LIVESTRONG.COM to track your successes and hurdles together is easy. Each member of your family can blog, upload videos, pose questions for others to answer or share thoughts on what's working for them. You can even give or take a Dare to provide motivation and reward for an objective conquered. It's a great way to give support inside the family and share your experiences with others who are doing the same.

The Family That Eats Together Stays Together
The long lost art of eating together is one that is still important today. Among busy schedules, it's difficult to find a moment to sit down as a family for a meal. However, there are proven benefits to rearranging your timetable so the whole family can dine together at least two to three times a week. It is not only good for your diets, but especially beneficial to your family bonding time. In fact, joining together for mealtime has even been known to decrease the risk for substance abuse along with unhealthy eating practices.

Celebrate Your Success
Hard work should not go unnoticed. So when you recognize a positive change in a family member's attitude, appearances, or healthy choices, celebrate your success. Instead of going out for ice cream, hightail it to the mini-golf course, swap out household responsibilities or put money toward a "House Fun Fund." After all, nothing tastes sweeter than the success of your family!

>> RELATED ARTICLE: Youth Health Secret: Mom and Dad DO Matter Most

About Dania Sacks March, Youth Health & Wellness Expert for
Dania Sacks March is the Youth Health & Wellness Expert for . She's made learning and educating others about health and wellness issues her life's focus. When not contributing her expertise and knowledge to Lance Armstrong's health, fitness and lifestyle site, she coordinates an on-site holistic model of physical and mental health services for urban high school students through the San Francisco Wellness Initiative.

Dania found her passion in working with adolescents (and those who work with them) designing and delivering curriculum around adolescent health issues. The issues she is most passionate about include physical and mental health promotion, harm reduction, young women's health, exercise and nutrition, violence prevention, healthy sexuality, and youth development.

Dania has a Master's Degree in Public Health and a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a Pupil and Personnel Services Credential from San Francisco State University. These days you can often find her cajoling her students to eat a healthy breakfast, take a few deep breaths, or discuss embarrassing topics.

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