Encouraging children to exercise early on in life lends remarkable health benefits while instilling lifelong healthy habits.
In fact, children who exercise can lower their risk of developing obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physically active youth also show to have lower body fat, stronger bones and muscles, and greater brain health.
But with less than one-quarter of children meeting exercise recommendations daily, how does one encourage physical activity?
Read on to learn how to make exercising with kids sustainable and enjoyable, family fitness ideas for all included!
6 Fun Activities for Scheduling Family Fitness
Since there never seems like there is enough time in the day, it is important to specifically block off time for priorities. Physically scheduling time for exercise like writing a meeting in a planner can help even the most unreliable exercisers stick to their plan.
If it helps, think of exercise as an enjoyable obligation that helps the whole family thrive. Plus, no need to block off hours of time for this new helpful hobby.
Instead, start small by setting aside twenty minutes in the morning or when everyone arrives home or before dinner. Try to consider small segments of time when the whole family is home so fitness can be fun for all!
Most of the below ideas involve little to no equipment, can be done basically anywhere, and include the whole family. Some of them incorporate normally atrocious tasks like chores into the plan.
Overall, come together as a family and employ some of these fun recommendations to create and instill lifelong healthy habits!
1. Use Electronics
Children are receiving, or at least exposed to, electronics earlier and earlier nowadays. While the negative consequences of many of these devices exist, some can be utilized to spur movement and activity!
Rather than banning electronics and screen time, which tends to drive kids to want them more, use their features for good. The Wi, specifically, includes many active options such as golf, bowling, and more.
However, most gaming systems offer at least a few physical activities like Dance, Dance Revolution or Just Dance. Playing one of these games will barely feel like exercise and is sure to afford endless laughs.
(Be ready to sweat if you choose to dance the night away trying to mimic the extravagantly sweaty moves in Just Dance!)
2. Play Old School Games
Even adults are never too old to engage in a game of hide and seek. Or, better yet, sardines (the reverse of that nostalgic amusement)!
Thousands of options exist, though, allowing the family to vote on one will please the collective and lead to more participation from everyone. Children's imaginations tend to run wild, so if the family wants to create their own active game, all the better!
But, if creativity is running low right now, here are some of the most popular ideas to get you started:
• Scavenger hunts in the neighborhood
• Driveway basketball
• Relay races in the backyard
• Your own version of the "Amazing Race"
• "Survivor" challenges (physically active ones, of course)
• Giant game of spoons in the yard- running to a certain point when you achieve 4 of a kind
• Freeze dance or tag
• Treasure hunt
• Life-sized Twister
3. Simon Says
Simon Says can be an incredibly simple way to participate in physical activity. Designate one family member as "Simon" while the rest follow gentle, fun commands.
But instead of simply telling the family to place a hand somewhere, instruct them to do some of the following:
• 10 push-ups
• 1 minute of jumping jacks
• 20 air squats
• 30 seconds of bear crawls
Truly, the options are infinite!
While the activity is better suited for older children, it is easy to accommodate young children. Rather than prescribing exercise moves, just replace them with simpler, less taxing movements such as touching the ground, hopping, or marching.
4. Turn Chores Into Fitness Fun
Any time a family can turn something usually considered unenjoyable into a game or (very) slight competition, more participation is guaranteed. Sometimes children require incentives to complete tasks they deem boring or pointless.
Since children tend to associate chores with dread, morph the task of chores into an enticing game or an enjoyable experience at least! Ways to achieve this include:
• Provide an incentive like a trip to the park if the job is well done.
• Complete chores while kids are doing theirs and blast music or a fun podcast.
• Set a timer for a realistic amount of time and see if the family can complete their chores before it rings.
• Schedule in chore time for the same slots each week, and make it seem even more like a regular activity. For instance, do a 10-minute aerobic warm-up and/or mobility cool-down before and after finishing.
• Turn the task of chores into a game. Use imagination and see which family member can create the most unique "Game of Chores" for lasting fun!
5. Use YouTube Videos
Watching funny cat videos all day long is one of the most inactive hobbies. However, YouTube is an excellent at-home source for family fitness.
Everything from dance tutorials to barre and yoga "classes" await a click. Just imagine the goofy fun of a whole family trying to perfect the choreography of a modern or old fashioned dance!
If dancing is not the family's forte, peruse the thousands of pilates, boot camps, cardio, and weight lifting options it offers as well.
Pro tip: Add in the amount of time the family wants to workout in front of the search item so only the most catered options appear.
6. Learn a New Game or Fitness Together
A favorite on this list, gather the family and create a fitness activity or game that the whole family will enjoy.
Ask every member to create a "rule" and then conglomerate into a cohesive game. Or, assign one family member to be the creator of that day and rotate accordingly.
To spur some ideas, think of favorite childhood games and easy ways to add movement like retrieving something far away or walking back and forth or quick bursts of energy. Google is also always one second away from providing countless ideas as well.
Although, harnessing the family's creativity will feel more meaningful and stimulate more participation and engagement (the ultimate goal)!