Family Exercise: Fun Activities for the Health of Your Family

Family Exercise Creates Happiness and Health

Fitness-focused families are healthier, happier, and more resilient to the ever-growing demands that life can throw out.

Somewhere along the way, exercise fell on the backburner. Whereas children once played outdoors and regularly participated in team sports, today you’re more likely to find them glued to their smartphone or television screen.

Screen Time Has Replaced Physical Activity

In fact, the average teen might spend an average of nine hours a day online. Eight-to-12-year olds spend an average of six hours.  Balancing all that screen time with academic and other requirements often leaves little time for fitness.

As a result, fewer children today meet exercise requirements. The 2008 US Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adolescents (six to 17) should get an hour or more of physical activity daily.

Most don’t. Only 21.6 percent of American children and adolescents (six to 19) got at least an hour’s worth of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at least five days a week.

Physical education (PE) classes have also taken a hit: About half (51.6 percent) of high school students attended PE classes during an average week. For some children, that might be the only opportunity to get exercise during the day.

Lack of Physical Activity Leads to Poor Health

The repercussions of not getting physical activity can impact self-esteem, energy levels, and even academic performance. Inactivity can also have serious health repercussions, including increased risk of:

  • Becoming overweight or obese.
  • Factors that cause heart disease.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Certain cancers.
  • Low bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis.

Conversely, regular physical activity can improve heart health, build strong bones and muscles, help manage weight, improve anxiety and depression, and reduce the risk of health problems among children and adolescents.

Team sports make a great way for kids to move more with their peers, but they aren’t for everyone. Adolescents especially enjoy weight lifting, working out, and other solitary or small-group exercise.

As a family, you have many opportunities to incorporate consistent exercise into your day. Exercise for the family can be a fun, fitness-focused, and free activity that boosts overall health, academic performance, all while strengthening bonds.

Family fun can involve exploring the outdoors, but during inclement weather or for more variety you might also consider indoor activities like ice skating or hockey.

10 Ways to Fit in Family Fitness

Think outside the box here. For your family, fitting in exercise might entail:

•   Running or walking for charity.
•   Taking the stairs and parking further from the grocery store doors.
•   A Friday night dance-off with your kids’ favorite music.
•   An intense minute of lunges, squats, or push-ups.
•   A contest to see who can hold a plank the longest. (Winner gets out of dishes duty.)

The key is to find what works for your family and make it fun. Incorporate a little creativity, make fitness lively and mandatory, and enjoy the time you spend with your family. Here are 10 ways to do that.

1.    Be that example. When mom and dad prioritize exercise, children and adolescents are more likely to do so. One study found that parents exercising significantly predicts whether adolescents will also engage in exercise. The key is to inspire others by showing, not telling. Your example as a healthy, happy, energized adult will create lasting habits your child will carry throughout life.

2.    Re-think exercise to keep the whole family healthy. If hitting the gym or getting laps around the block feels like a big chore, repurpose how your family sees exercise. Aim to integrate it seamlessly into your days, such as an after-dinner walk or some touch football. Make exercise as consistent and normal as your family dinner or brushing your teeth. You wouldn’t skip those things; you shouldn’t miss exercise either.

3.    Schedule activities. You don’t just find the time to exercise; you have to create it. Set aside 30 minutes, three times a week to do fun exercises. Make it mandatory and routine; say, after dinner. You don’t need to be super adventurous here: something fun like hopscotch works for younger kids, while older kids enjoy soccer or shooting hoops.

4.    Have fitness breaks. You don’t need an hour to exercise. Fit some pushups or squats in during TV commercials. Create mandatory screentime breaks every hour or so by setting a reminder on your child’s (and your) smartphone or tablet.

5.    Schedule outdoor vacations. A two-week Maui vacation provides plenty of opportunities for family exercise, but that’s not always possible. If you have a nearby park, make an afternoon of frisbee or touch football. Schedule a day hiking trip, even if that requires an hour or two drive. Family time feels more invigorating when you do it in nature.

6.    Walk or bike more. Biking or strolling around your neighborhood provides an excellent way to fit in more steps. If you’ve got a nearby park, a morning stroll or after-school bike ride provides an invigorating recharge for you all from being indoors all day. Bonus, if you’re tracking that movement with an app or pedometer. If possible, make walking or biking your transportation mode — say, when you go to the grocery store.

7.    Make chores fun. Few children or adolescents — or adults — would call yard work or cleaning the house fun. Change that perspective: put on some fun music while you’re cleaning, foster an appreciation for nature, and create contests to see who can knock out the most. A clean house or yard and physical exercise make a double win!

8.    Get a dog. Walking, running around the yard, and other types of movement is more fun with your best furry friend. Dog owners have more fun, lose weight, and keep it off better than non-dog owners. A healthy dose of canine love makes everything better!

9.    Incorporate the right diet and lifestyle strategies. You’ll get lots more mileage out of family exercise when you regularly serve healthy meals and snacks. We’ve got lots of recipes here, and our Core or Advanced Plans are perfect for everyone. Balance exercise too with plenty of rest: Everyone does better with the right amount of quality sleep. Stress management, healthy socialization, and the right nutrients can also complement healthy fitness.

10.   Remember that balance is key. An extreme approach doesn’t work and might even turn family members off of exercise. Your children needn’t abandon technology, and they’ll also require sedentary activities such as reading and studying. Find a balance: Say, an hour of exercise and an hour of screen time. Being physically inactive isn’t healthy, but neither is overdoing fitness, which can make anyone more prone to injury or burnout.

Making regular exercise a habit becomes easier when you focus on fun activities that fit into your schedule. Everyone is busy, but when you fit fitness in, you’ll find everything else benefits including your mood, your focus, your confidence, and even your work productivity.

Children grow up quickly. Spending time together becomes easier when you center it around a specific activity. Exercise makes the ideal way to do that, plus you’re installing healthy habits your child will use throughout life.