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!
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Galamaga, whois a board-certified internal medicine physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.
How do you keep your kids (and yourself) active? Ever tried any of these activities? Share below!
Discussion (15 Comments)
Great suggestions and I immediately sent them to the preschool where I used to work…they serve 144 families here on Whidbey Island area. Though our kid is grown I am thinking some nerf balls thrown at my hubbie could be a great source of entertainment. It’s on the list to purchase. Thank you for you devotion to better living and health….it is my mission as well.
Another great article, inspiring read. Thank you
I enjoy doing animal crawls or animal flow with the kids. Requires a lot of muscle control, flexiblity and strength, but the best part is you don’t even know you are working out. Feels like play.
This is the marketer in me, no reflection on the great article your wrote, which I will be sharing… just wanted to let you know your graphic doesn’t match your title. It states 3 Ways instead of 7. 🙂
Thanks, Sara! We’ll get the image updated 🙂
We live on a farm so are always active – the kids have their daily chores. We also jump rope for about 15 mins a few times a week. Hula Hooping is a lot of fun – there are some great tutorials on youtube and for the younger ones there is a video of the Hula monsters. We also put on music and dance. The kids create obstacles around the house and yard for their parkour practice and of course they love their nerf fights.
I am putting an informative piece in a newsletter for the Y I work for and I was curious if you would mind my using this one. My focus is fitness tips and I sincerely love this (and your entire blog). If not, I will write up my own. Have a blessed day!
I don’t allow my articles to be copied and published elsewhere. However, you can quote from an article and link back to the original one if you’d like. Thanks for reading!
One of the things we loved doing as a kid was buying those huge marshmallows and have a marshmallow fight. After throwing them they become inedible so we just pick them back up and chuck them at each other again. The sock fight reminds me of that.
these look super fun! Especially the Family Boot Camp!
Like the Dutch, we try to ride our bikes everywhere, with a diligent focus on getting as many routine errands done via bike (groceries, school, work, etc..). My 19-month-old rides in a WeeRide seat on the handle bars, and my nearly 6-year-old rides on a Burley piccolo trail-a-bike (both found on Craig’s List!). My husband rides 15 miles round trip to work each day (granted, half of that is down hill, but the other half is up a mountain…) and he drops our daughter to school in bike trailer and I pick her up on the piccolo attached to my bike. It’s kind of crazy, but I can check off a at least minimal exercise in a day if we make that a lifestyle habit :-).
I also allow lots of running in the house–especially while I am making dinner. They run back and forth from our office to the living room and while cooking, I pretend to “get” them. I never do (shucks! I needed some extra tasty-tasty for the soup!) 😉 Sometimes, I’ll hide behind the pantry door and jump out a bit, which causes happy shrieks and squeals. Then I go back to stirring this and chopping that. I do not suspect that allowing them to run all over the house now will lead to adults who are as inclined to run in the house! 🙂 They also like jumping on the couch cushions (removed from the couch and spread all over the floor). Industrious. Wee ones are very industrious when left to their own devices and will come up with ways to get exercise.
Family dance parties are fun too. Mine *love* to dance. I just turn on the music, they get the costumes and the fun can go on and on.
I love the ideas in the article. Great idea for Easter egg hunts–but good all year too!
I am with you, Katie. I do not like to leave my family to go workout. I like to be there in the morning when my kids wake up. I’d rather go for a short walk in the blistering sun than an early morning stroll. LOL
These are great options. We used to set up obstacle courses on rainy days when our kids were smaller.