National Exercise with a Child Week kicked off August (August 4-10), but finding time to connect with your kids in an active way is a good idea year round. From family bike rides to organized fun runs and even hitting the club together, doing some form of exercise with your children has been shown to create stronger family bonds and also create good healthy lifestyle habits that can follow kids as they grow into young adults and beyond. It’s also a good way to help prevent childhood obesity, a condition that according to the CDC, affects almost 20 percent of children in the USA each year. If you’re wondering how to get started, here are four quick thought starters to make fitness a fun, family affair…
Don’t force it – keep fitness casual
Not every kid is ready for structured exercise classes or even set times to work out. Introduce younger members of the family to regular family exercise with more fun ideas that seem like play. Try a good natured family competition with a hula hoop, jump rope or play catch to see who can beat the highest family score. Weekend bike rides are always a winner, especially if you add in a stop for a small treat but try and make the treat experiential rather than all about food: a stop at the local pool for a quick dip or a ride to the neighborhood book store are easy ideas to motivate young children. Don’t wait for the weekend either: squeeze in an after dinner walk around the block, toss the football around in the yard for even 30 minutes with all the family and ask your kids what fun activity they’d like to do a few times a week.
Sneak in exercise
Like adding hidden veggies in homemade pasta sauces, you can sneak in exercise into daily family life. If your children are out of early toddlerhood, leave the stroller behind and dedicate more time to walking to and from the park. Keep a scooter in the back of the car for longer impromptu walks while you’re in the middle of running errands. And make family chores family fun activities. If the driveway needs shoveling in winter, get the kids involved and promise a snowball fight when it’s done. Or fall leaf clean up can be a fun active family afternoon if you don’t mind a little mess as you rake.
Make workouts a reward for kids
According to IHRSA, kids under 18 now make up more than 16 percent of all club memberships and the number is growing fast. Kids start at club summer programs while parents work or run errands and many graduate to joining classes with mom or dad as they get older. Teens and tweens are welcome in most instructor-led classes now, so look for opportunities to get your kids involved in a fast paced intro cycling class or one of the many dance based workouts. You might also want to consider letting your kids explore on-demand content at the club or at home. With hundreds of classes and new activities to try, it’s an easy way for parents and kids to try a new sport, preview a class they might want to attend live, or find an activity you can share a few times a week. Some on-demand platforms even have content and classes aimed at specific age levels of kids, making exercise a fun, cartoon-like adventure and part of a follow-along story for younger children.
Give back together
Some kids are motivated by helping others, so don’t forget the many options for doing a family fun run and working up to a 10K organized by a local nonprofit or national charity. Could a road trip to a small town charity run or walking event become an annual tradition? Or a contest between family members to raise money and sponsors for participation be a way to motivate all kids to do good while staying active? Consider bike events too as the easiest way to get even the smallest kids involved in fun family charity events.