Even if you know how important physical activity is for you and your family, exercise can still feel like just another item on your to-do list. You may also struggle dragging your children away from a TV long enough to get their muscles moving.
The key is to transform exercise from a dreaded chore into a fun, family event. The time you spend staying fit with your family can even end up creating cherished traditions and memories. Here are four simple strategies to help make family fitness easier and more enjoyable:
- Focus on fun. Lots of adults equate exercise with logging hours at the gym. And many children associate exercise with playing sports. While hitting the gym or joining a sports team can be great options for those who enjoy these activities, they’re far from the only ways to be active. Go to the roller or ice skating rink, or take a family bike ride. Hit the pool for a game of water tag, have a water balloon fight in the backyard or go fly a kite!
- Sneak in snippets of exercise. Busy families might not be able to schedule an uninterrupted hour of family fitness each day, but most of us can find pockets of time when we can fit in some extra movement. Walk instead of driving to nearby events. When you have to drive, park further away to get in a few extra steps, or take the stairs. Keep children engaged by asking them to guess and count how many steps it will take to get from the car to your destination. When watching TV, get up to dance together during commercial breaks; in a typical hour-long show, those mini-dance parties can add up to 15 minutes of movement. (Bonus: Your children may get a good laugh over your dance moves.)
- Make physical activity a part of your celebrations. To celebrate a birthday or holiday, plan something activity-focused rather than making it all about food. Go on a hike or a bike ride. During family outings, start a tradition of facing off in a softball game or Frisbee competition. Toss around a football or go for a brisk walk to help burn off your family’s holiday dinner.
- Keep score. Not everyone has a competitive streak, but some families thrive on friendly rivalries. If yours is one of them, try activities with a competitive element. See who can keep a hula hoop going the longest or who can jump rope the most times without stopping. Give the winner a reward, such as choosing the music for the next family car trip or picking what’s for dinner (from a list of healthy options).
National exercise guidelines recommend that children and adolescents participate in moderate to vigorous activities for an hour or more a day, most days of the week. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. When it comes to exercise, something will always be better than nothing. You can split up the recommended amounts into shorter bursts of exercise and still enjoy the payoffs, including better health.
Read more about exercise and children, and get more ideas for making family fitness fun.
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