Why should your family get off the couch?
"Because any 10 year old will tell you nothing good ever happens when you're sitting still," concludes Designed to Move, a report published today by the American College of Sports Medicine, the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, and Nike, Inc.
Olympian Allyson Felix, 26 — who finished the 2012 Games with gold medals in the 200 meters, 4x100 relay and 4x400 relay and just became the U.S. Olympic Committee's female athlete of the year — talks to Family Goes Strong about how to make physical activity a positive part of everyday life. Excerpts:
So what did your mother and father do to get you physically active?
My parents did a great job of just getting me involved in the community. It wasn't necessarily a whole bunch of organized sports. It was being involved in the neighborhood, my local community center. I did sports — gymnastics, swimming, bike riding. But it was really social. It was very fun. And I think that's the key. Before the age of 10, have a positive experience with physical activity. As you grow, it's a habit that becomes a lifestyle.
Were your parents athletes?
They're not athletes themselves. But they were in shape.
When you become a parent, how will you get your kids to be active?
I'd definitely incorporate a lot of what they [my parents] did. I definitely want to see schools play a bigger role. And I'd love to see kids riding their bikes to school, walking to school.
Would you like more gym time and after-school sports?
Even things like active learning – not having them sit behind he desk all the day. Lots of times what we talk about here is so much emphasis is placed on the brain, but you forget about the rest of the body. Lots of times we think of physical activity as being sports, but it's play. It's walking the dog. It's things we probably all have done growing up. Now it's not normal any more.
Can you talk more about the sports you did when you were growing up?
I tried gymnastics. Even to this day, I wish I were a gymnast. I wasn't flexible. Basketball was one of my sports. I spent a lot of time in that. In school, I played soccer and volleyball. I didn't get involved in track and field until I was 14. My family suggested I go out for the track team to meet new people. I fell into it, fell in love with it. Before then, sports were more of a social thing for me.
You won more medals that any other U.S. track-and-field athlete at the 2012 Olympics – and you started at 14! So it's never too late?
Never too late. I think it's good for kids to have experience with all different sports.
You wanted to be a gymnast. Did you meet Gabby Douglas?
I have. She's adorable. So petite and little!
What's the best way to get kids to be physically active without spending too much money?
Parks are great. Exercising with the family, going on walks, biking together. And then of course organized sports are great.
What else do you and others involved with the report want Americans to know?
The biggest thing is awareness. [This year] 5.3 million [Americans] are going to die from physical inactivity.
I understand you're still physically active, even when you're officially taking one month off.
I'm trying to be active. I bike on the beach. I still have a few more weeks left.
Then you'll be back to working out five hours a day?
Do your parents exercise more formally these days?
My mom, she goes to the gym. It's a little tougher with my dad. That's kind of my project! I've got to get him moving. My mom, she's on it.
For more stories Olympians and their families, read:
For more about healthy families, read: