How to enjoy family time…and keep fit.
It’s clearly important for parents to find ways to incorporate physical activity into their kids’ lives. With childhood obesity rates at staggering levels, exercise is no longer a need but a necessity. If the cost of organized sports or clubs is a deterrent, don’t despair. It’s easy to turn exercise into fun, family activities. Just follow these simple steps.
Make it a priority! We all have busy lives. So it’s important to add family fitness time to your calendar and stick to it. “Designate certain days and times for family activity,” suggests personal trainer Ashley Dale Roy. “No questions asked. If you do not do this at the beginning, it is hard to get everyone on the same page, at the same time.” Find a day and time that works for everyone and don’t take “no” for an answer.
Make it simple! One of the best ways to get the family fit is to enjoy a good, old-fashioned walk. Elizabeth Martin, a local mother of three, loves taking nightly walks with her children during the summer months. “It reminds me that being active doesn’t have to cost money or be fancy,” she says. Stroll around the neighbourhood or through a local conservation area. Walk to a local park and enjoy some playtime on the swings and slides. A family walk is also a great opportunity to chat with your children and get to know more about their lives.
Make it a choice! Nobody wants to participate in an activity if it is boring, especially kids, so make family fitness time fun! Do this by letting children be part of the decision-making process about what the family’s activity will be each week. Anything goes, as long as it’s physical. “My oldest son loves basketball and always plays willingly when we let him choose the activity,” Martin explains. “It’s not my first choice, but he loves it!” Think about your time together as “family play time”, a time to let loose, follow fewer rules, and just have fun together.
Make it silly! Create silly games that keep you and your kids running and active. “My favourite game is ‘Monster Tag’,” says Martin. “Everyone, including parents, walks around with their arms out like zombies, trying to elude the person who is ‘it’. The kids love seeing their parents acting silly and we love watching them run around and have fun!” Don’t be afraid to let your hair down and play with your kids. They won’t even realize that they are exercising when they’re jumping through the sprinkler with their dad or laughing at their mom trying to do a crab walk across the backyard.
Make it different! Take your family fitness time to a different location and try out new activities. Utilize local green space to play a game of catch or practise soccer skills. Drive to a nearby beach and toss around a beach ball, get down in the sand and build a sand castle with your kids, or find a lakeside trail to bike or rollerblade on. “Seeing new places will make kids want to be active for longer in order to check the place out,” says Dale Roy. To top off the day, pack a picnic to enjoy while you try your new outdoor activities.
Make it inclusive! Want to really excite your kids about fitness? Martin encourages her family to invite friends over during their family “play” time. “We love to make a backyard obstacle course using lawn chairs to run around and crawl under and a kiddie pool to jump into at the end,” she says. Inviting your children’s friends to your family’s fitness time makes it even more enjoyable for you and your children.
With a bit of pre-planning, physical activity can become a regular part of your family life. “Check out new stuff, try new things, have fun, all while having some good quality time together,” says Dale Roy. “Not only will you be bringing health and happiness into your family, but you will be creating memories that last much longer than sitting in front of the TV watching the same shows or playing the same video games.”
Be prepared for any outdoor activity by packing a bag with:
√ hats and sunglasses
√ plenty of cold water to stay hydrated
√ an “emergency kit” including band-aids, tissues, and anti-bacterial wipes
√ safety gear for bike riding or rollerblading
√ a light snack, if you are away from home