Fit Family: How to Exercise with Your Kids

Posted on: 06.05.2015.

Author: Ana G

''Street skills course'' by Brisbane City Council is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In today's fast-paced world, finding the time to exercise is difficult enough. There don't seem to be enough hours in the day to make fitness a priority for yourself, so how are you supposed to make sure your kids get enough exercise as well? This is something all modern parents struggle with, so you're far from alone. After all, all of us aren't just busy; we're also constantly distracted by smartphones, tablets, video games and other forms of technology. It's all too easy to put exercise and fitness on the back burner, but here's the thing: By making it a fun, family affair, you and your kids will get more from it than just staying healthy.

Like so many people, you probably urge yourself to get to the gym each day. Even if you're able to accomplish that goal once in a while, finding the time to ensure your kids get appropriate amounts of exercise is seemingly impossible. It's time to rethink the way you incorporate exercise into your life. Rather than hitting the gym with the precious little spare time you have, start leading an active lifestyle every day, and get the whole family in on the act too. By keeping things fun, lighthearted and versatile, you can show kids that exercising is, indeed, fun, and you can lay a foundation that's sure to lead to a lifetime passion for fitness.

The Importance of Family Fitness

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As a parent, you're always taking steps to ensure that your kids grow up to be happy, productive, successful adults. You want them to be healthy too, of course, and staying fit is a huge part of that.

The benefits of getting regular exercise cannot be emphasized enough. It helps keep your body in great shape, and it allows you to maintain your good health. Exercising regularly doesn't just bring physical benefits to the table, though; it also provides significant emotional, cognitive and social benefits too. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body. So, after working out, the sense of calm and well-being you experience can be profound. You'll enjoy these benefits by staying active, and your kids will too.

So, to ensure that your kids get the exercise they need, it's time to redefine "family time." By being active together, you'll enjoy an amazing bonding experience and create incredible memories that will last a lifetime. In this way, making exercise a family affair doesn't just keep each individual family member's health and well-being in check; it helps you all grow closer as a family as well.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the concept of initiating a family exercise regimen. The first step is to not think of it that way, but to think of it as a lifestyle change. There are lots of ways to go about it:

1. Walk, Run and Roll Together

''Jogging with Dog and Baby by Capitola Wharf'' by Don DeBold is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When your kids see you enjoy being active, they're far more likely to follow suit. A great way to ease you and your family into it is by getting into the habit of taking a daily walk. Kids of all ages love strolling with their parents and no special equipment or gym membership fees are required for this activity. If you are a dog owner, walk your furry canine friend with your child, and enjoy some quality fitness time together.

If you enjoy running and have a small child, invest in a jogging stroller and bring them along with you. If your kids are older, let them tag along with the "vehicle" of their choice, whether it's a bicycle, tricycle, in-line skates or a scooter. Look into mom and baby exercise classes, which not only allow you and your child to be active, but let you meet other parents with similar interests.

2. Work Out at Home

''WiiFit'' by Pimkie is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

When it comes to exercising as a family, there are plenty of opportunities right at your home. For instance, turn on some fast-paced, upbeat music and dance around with your kids. Choose something they know, and encourage them to pretend they're holding a microphone and to sing along. Let them help you plan a disco party, and invite other relatives and friends to join in on the fun.

Silly games don't just spark kids' imaginations; they help get them moving too, so try incorporating some into your weekly routine. From animal charades to catch a bubble, these games pull your kids away from the screen while letting them get some exercise.

Speaking of screens, there are video games that actually promote physical activity. The Wii is a prime example, and Wii Fit is something the whole family can enjoy together. New technology is great, but there's a lot to be said for tradition too. Think back to some of your favorite traditional childhood games and introduce them to your child. From freeze tag to Frisbee, these activities will help you bond while ensuring you all keep moving.

3. Turn Chores into Family Fun

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As busy as you doubtlessly are, finding time to keep the house neat and tidy probably isn't easy. Enlisting the kids' help makes a huge difference, and it's also a great way to exercise together as a family!

Things like vacuuming, sweeping and light housework all require decent amounts of physical activity. Don't take on these tasks alone. Rather, get everyone on board and explain that by working together, the job will be done that much sooner.

Of course, being told they need to help do chores isn't going to be music to your kids' ears, so take steps to make it fun. Find some music your kids like and play it while everyone pitches in. Make cleaning into a game of sorts by using a little creativity. For example, have your kids "save" their toys by putting them in the toy chest within a certain period of time.

The great thing about making chores a form of exercise is there are things you can do year-round. In the fall, there's raking. In the winter, there's shoveling. During the spring, do spring cleaning around the house and have your kids help with the gardening. In the summer, have a car wash.

4. Schedule an Activity Day

''Udo indoor rock climbing'' by Juhan Sonin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

With everything so hectic all the time, it's easy to let exercising as a family fall by the wayside. With this in mind, make a point of scheduling special activity days. The timing will depend on your family's schedule, of course, but the special day should be set aside for trying fun, new activities together.

What kinds of things could you try together on family activity days? Rock climbing is a great option, and you don't have to live near great rock formations or mountains to do it. In fact, it's far safer to stick with rock-climbing walls at local facilities. Odds are there's a recreation center or gym nearby that offers indoor climbing, and it's a great experience for the whole family.

If everyone has their own bike, you could try new cycling routes on special activity days. This lets you get exercise while exploring different areas together. Swimming is great too, and it's well worth it to invest in a membership at a local pool. Make sure your kids get swimming lessons! You could also just hang out at home on activity days sometime too. Come up with new, fun games that incorporate physical activity. The Internet is bursting with great ideas.

5. Try Something New

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It's important to show kids that there are lots of ways to stay active. Also, it's wise to show them that trying new things is fun and important too. From time to time, then, try new sports together as a family. There's an endless array of options, so you never have to worry about getting bored.

Ideas for new things to try as a family include horseback riding, hiking, martial arts and all kinds of sports. Be sure to keep all of your family members in mind when choosing activities, so decide on those that are suitable for varying ages and skill levels. Introduce your child to your favorite fitness activities too, and ask them to show you their favorites as well.

Finally, be on the lookout for special charity events that incorporate physical activity. Charity walks, runs and rides are typically open to all ages, and they are a lot of fun. As an added bonus, participating in such events is a great way to teach your kids about important issues and causes. Oftentimes, advance preparation is required, so that's yet another way to exercise together as a family. Whether you're preparing for a ride, run, ride or other activity, you and your kids will be all the more motivated with an event looming on the horizon. The sense of accomplishment you'll all feel should be priceless too.

Last But Not Least

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In addition to the tips highlighted above, remember this above everything else: Your example is of the utmost importance. Being a fitness role model for your child is one of the most effective ways to ensure that they make fitness a lifelong priority too. Things that are important to the adults in a child's life tend to become important to them too. When your child sees how much you value regular exercise, they are far more likely to make it an essential part of their life as well. Don't just show that you include exercise in your daily life, though; show that you actually enjoy it as well.

Every day, look for ways to incorporate family fitness activities into your life. Every little bit helps. You don't have to ban your kids from video games or other forms of technology, but make it clear that it's important to put down the devices from time to time. Make sure they see you doing the same thing too.

In addition to incorporating small, fun activities into everyday life, use a little planning to ensure that the whole family is continually introduced to new options. This will keep things fun and exciting, and your kids will start associating those feelings with exercising. When you make exercise a family priority, there's no end to what you can do, and the lifelong benefits for your kids will be out of this world.