It’s an unfortunate fact: Most kids don’t get the exercise they need during the school day. Some love team sports and get their exercise after school. Others head straight for the computer. Some kids are natural athletes, while others feel self-conscious about their athletic ability.
By exposing your child to fun, casual forms of exercise and by modeling fitness habits, you can make an active lifestyle a natural part of her everyday life. The best way to do this is to make exercise a family affair and a time for connecting and having fun. The key is to find the right activities for you and your child, then to make the time for each activity.
Following are 10 fun, family-friendly ways to get fit together while having fun.
1. Train for an event. Whether it’s a 2-mile walk or a half-marathon, training as a family for an event can get everyone motivated. As additional motivation, many events benefit charity. Research and pick a charity together, then pick a realistic goal everyone can achieve. Finally, help everyone make time to get in shape for the event.
2. Embrace your pedal power. Biking together is a great family activity. Young kids can ride in trailers behind Mom’s or Dad’s bike. If someone in the family doesn’t have a bicycle, try renting one for a day. Tandem bikes are another option and are especially fun. Find a safe place, like a bike path, and start out on flat terrain if possible. Beach communities are great for biking.
3. Knock down some pins. Bowling is an indoor activity almost anyone can enjoy. It may not have the sweat-inducing intensity of some sports, but bowling still gets everybody active and involved—and it gives your kids a fun way to practice math skills by serving as scorekeeper.
4. Take a lesson or class together. If everyone in the family has a different favorite sport, get everyone fired up to try something new as a family. Families can enroll in tennis or martial arts lessons, or perhaps try rock climbing at an indoor rock-climbing facility.
5. Try a workout DVD. If exercising at home is the best option for your family, check out the hundreds of exercise DVDs available, both at your library and for purchase online. Some can even be streamed to your computer or television from a website. Tae Bo, for example, is a fantastic choice. It’s fun and challenging for girls, boys, men, and women. Hip-hop dance, Zumba, and Pilates are other options, as are the many DVDs geared toward kids.
6. Push out of your comfort zone. Take turns trying a family member’s favorite sport. For example, if your son loves basketball, round up everyone in the family and have a game with him. He can give everyone pointers. In return, invite him to swim laps with you at the Y.
7. Explore a public park. Research public parks—state, federal, and local—and pick one to explore. Activities such as hiking, canoeing, biking, swimming, and fishing, among others, are offered at many public parks. You may be able to spend the night at a campsite or in a cabin at a park.
8. Go somewhere new. Whether it’s the country or the city, taking an excursion to a new place can certainly be a family adventure. Some cities lend themselves well to walking. If you want to stay close to home, find a festival you wouldn’t typically attend (a sheep-shearing festival!), or just explore a different neighborhood.
9. Visit a working farm. Many farms offer pick-your-own fruits and vegetables when in season. At other farms, you may even be able to work the land. Even if you simply tour a farm, you’ll probably do some serious walking. It’s easy to get kids interested by showing them where their food comes from and how it’s grown. Who knows—you might be inspired to plant your own vegetable garden, which is another terrific family activity.
10. Clean the house. Yes, housework burns calories! Turn on some music, give everyone a room or a task, and get cleaning.
In addition to these 10 ideas, don’t forget the easiest of all to do as a family: Go for a walk! Don’t focus on how many calories you burn or whether you break a sweat. The important thing is that you show your kids how fun it can be to get fit together.