BY KATIE WELLS
I remember how easy it was to “work out” in college. For one thing, I was walking miles each week just to get to class, and whenever I got stressed and needed a mental break from homework, I could just go to the gym on campus (for free) and get a workout in. I didn’t really understand people who “didn’t have time to workout.”
And then… I became a mom… and I understood perfectly how difficult it is to find time to workout when most days, you are doing good if you can find time to go to the bathroom without your kids following you.
The Importance of Family Exercise
Unfortunately, while it gets tougher when we become parents, exercise remains just as important. In fact, with little ones watching us as an example, exercise becomes even more important! If we as adults wish to create a future of happy, healthy, disease-free adults with our kids, it’s time we start practicing what we preach.
Our kids model our behavior. Their attitudes and actions toward everything from nutrition to exercise to politics are shaped by our own actions and behaviors. If we want our kids to eat well, we need to eat well. If we want them to exercise, we need to exercise.
The above modeling creates a culture of wellness in the home. In this environment, children learn that healthy habits are a positive way of life.
And it’s good for Mom and Dad too!
8 (Sneaky) Ways to Get Active as a Family
Exercising as a family is not only a fun way to improve fitness, it’s a way to cultivate the culture of wellness and develop positive exercise habits at a young age.
Below are some fun exercise-based family activities guaranteed to create smiles and sweat!
1. Nerf Fight!
This is one of our family’s favorite exercises disguised as a game. We each have one of these Nerf guns and a bunch of extra Nerf darts. One family member will declare a Nerf Fight and we’ll decide on the rules and boundaries for the game. We often pick teams (guys against girls is always fun) and a home fort. Sometimes, this can be played like a mixture of Combat Archery, Dodgeball and Capture the Flag and indoors or outdoors. Each team has a base to defend that has a paper cup perched in the middle. The rules are as follows:
- If you get hit with an arrow you are out. If you catch an arrow, the person who shot it is out.
- The objective is to shoot the paper cup off of the other team’s base before your team’s is shot.
- Once a person is out, they have to do jumping jacks and pushups until the next round.
2. Family Boot Camp
Each family member writes down 5 of his or her favorite bodyweight (or weighted, level appropriate) exercises, for a total of at least 20. Exercises can be dance moves, calisthenics, martial arts, anything physical that the entire family can do.
The family then goes for a walk, jog, or run and every 60 seconds, they do one of the exercises for 30 seconds. By the end of all of the exercises, it’s been a 20-minute workout! Feel free to go into overtime!
3. Hide and Sweat!
The adults in the family write down 20 physical activities on separate small pieces of paper. These are then put in plastic Easter eggs and hid around the house. Kids are then tasked to find the eggs. When they find them they open them and the entire family performs the activity for the reps or amount of time given.
Putting a time limit on finding all of the eggs and doing all of the exercises makes it more interesting!
4. Family Walks
Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. Walking is a favorite childhood family activity of mine that I now do with my own kids. There are so many benefits to walking (and to being outside), and the whole family can participate (even the baby in her stroller). We are fortunate to live near several greenways and beautiful parks and family walks (with the dogs) are a great way to exercise together.
5. Dance Party
Some afternoons when we are done with school and it is too rainy to go outside, we declare a dance party! Usually this involves putting on some oldies music and dancing all over the house. It doesn’t take long to work up a sweat!
6. Jump Rope
A kid-friendly exercise that is great for the whole family. In fact, kids usually dominate at this exercise once they get the hang of it thanks to their lower center of gravity. Just ten minutes of jump rope is enough to get the blood flowing and with more than one person, it is fun to learn all kinds of fun jumps.
7. Structured Exercise
There are many other types of more structured exercises that can be done as a family. Our family likes to take jujutsu together in the evenings at a local Dojo. We also all have roller blades, and sometimes drive to a nearby parking lot and skate for a while. We also intentionally created a backyard full of activities that invite climbing, jumping, and play.
8. Just Hang Out!
Part of the solution can also be creating a home environment that promotes movement. While this isn’t something one would normally think of as exercise, we have a vestibular system that requires a certain amount of movement and stimulation to function. It’s especially important for kids to have this kind of input as they grow and develop. This is one reason we have swings, aerial silks, and hammocks in our kids’ bedrooms. These all allow subtle movement that kids find soothing and invite being more active even indoors.
9. Give Kids Freedom
Most kids are naturally inclined to be active… to the point that they exhaust us! As electronics use
grows in our society, it’s important to give kids other options for adventure and entertainment. And this might involve letting them take some risks!
In my opinion, keeping kids close 24/7 may actually be harming more than helping them. I say, bring back the neighborhood! We are fortunate to live where we know our neighbors well and help each other keep an eye on our kids as they bike/skate/explore/play. I’ll be writing more soon about some of the ways we’ve worked to build community in our neighborhood that have made life a lot more fun!