Finding time to exercise is tough for most of us at the best of times. Making it a family affair can put the fun back into fitness, as well as keeping parents and kids motivated to get out and exercise. As obesity rates in Canada rise — among both adults and children — making fitness a priority for the whole family is more important than ever. From family fitness challenges to a simple morning stretch routine, here are five easy (and fun) ways to fit family exercise into your busy schedule.
1. Family fitness challenges
Nothing motivates people quite like a reward or some friendly competition. Agree on a prize that everyone in the family would be eager to “win” and choose an amount of time for the challenge (one month is a good start). Then ask each family member to come up with a fitness task (i.e., 10 jumping jacks, two sun salutations, 10 flights of stairs) for everyone to aim to do every day. Create a chart to record your tasks. At the end of the given time period, tally the accomplishments and determine who walks away with the family fitness award. Then pick another timeline and switch up the tasks or build upon the previous ones. There are also lots of family fun races — walks/run/mini-triathlons — that could be a great fitness challenge for the family.
2. Ditch the car and do some footwork
Whether it’s your school pickup, getting to the park, or running errands, choose to walk that regular driving or transit route. Experiment with different ways to walk from A to B. Time how long each route takes and track which ones are more fun/more interesting/more noisy. It’s a fantastic way to discover new streets in your neighbourhood, to increase your knowledge of where you live, and to get some good old-fashioned walking in as well.
3. Plan to play
Book a block of time (or two or three) on your calendar during which all members of the family are available to play. Alternate the activity every week by letting each family member choose the type of exercise they want everyone to try. From family yoga classes to the free swim at the local pool, from trail hikes to bike rides, there are limitless activities for the whole family to experience. And who knows, one or two might just stick and become “your thing.”
4. Daily doses
Take a few minutes every morning for a family stretch or some time after dinner for a family walk. A morning wakeup routine is a great way to stretch out the cobwebs of sleep and set a positive mindset for the day. And a walk after dinner is a much better way to wind down from the day than parking ourselves in front of the television. Incorporating exercise routines into our daily life sets us all up to maintain healthy habits later in life.
5. Go old school
Introduce your kids to all of your favourite childhood games. Whether it’s creating obstacle courses, having a “family Olympics” day, playing flag tag, Red Rover, hide-and-seek, or simply a good old game of catch, get the family outside every day for some unstructured fun and active time together.
Fitting exercise into our lives doesn’t need to feel like a chore, nor does it require signing up for expensive classes and programs. Family fitness is a great way to strengthen family bonds, and it’s also good for our physical and mental health.