by Mike Levinson
Exercise is one of the most important things for your family—it can increase life expectancy, lower heart risks, help control weight and improve school performance. And it helps kids to burn off some energy. Plus, perhaps most importantly, inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. Making family activities and fitness part of your child’s life at an early age can go a long way toward helping them form healthy habits for life.
But don’t expect your kids to understand–or even care–about those things. Your job is to make them see that exercise is fun. When exercise feels like play, your whole family will enjoy it more and be more likely to stick with it.
As a parent, you are the most powerful role model. If you find ways to be more active every day, your kids will follow your lead.
Here are five ideas for family fitness that can get you all moving.
1. Make Time to Play
Set aside 30 minutes three times a week to do fun exercises with your kids. Make it a part of your after-school or after-dinner routine. If your kids are young, they might enjoy hopscotch or hide-and-seek. Kick a soccer ball around with older children.
Also plan at least one family activity every weekend. It can be as simple as taking little ones to the playground or as challenging as an all-day hike with your teenager.
A key to getting kids moving is planning time for physical activities. You can find that time by turning off the TV and electronics, for starters, and keeping TVs out of the kids’ bedrooms. Exploring different ways to move their bodies will help children find exercises they enjoy and want to stick with for the long run.
2. Walk or Bicycle Everywhere You Can
Bike or walk to the grocery store, library or to your child’s school or sports events. Go for a 30-minute family walk after dinner instead of heading right for the television.
3. Plan Active Family Gatherings
Serve up family fitness as well as cake at your child’s birthday party by planning active games such as tag or relay races. Older kids might enjoy throwing a dance party.
Any large gathering of kids is also a great opportunity to play a team sport such as soccer or basketball. Other active party ideas: a pool party, in-line or ice skating, or climbing at an indoor rock gym.
At family or holiday gatherings, turn off the TV and take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a short hike at a local park. Or get everyone outside for a game of catch or shooting hoops.
4. Sing and Dance While You Clean
Set aside time for household chores and do them together as a family. Play music as you clean and take turns choosing favorite songs. Younger children love to help out and can pick up toys or sweep floors while dancing with the broom. Older kids can dust, vacuum and help make beds.
5. Make Yard Work Less of a Chore for More Family Exercise
Enjoy seasonal yard work together. Younger children can help plant and tend a garden. Older kids can rake leaves into a pile and then jump in it.