Family Fitness

How Parents and Kids Can Stay Active Together

It may seem impossible to stick to an exercise regimen, especially with the whole family involved. But staying active together — whether through sports, gym visits or open play — has many benefits.

Activities for all ages

You don’t have to be athletes for an effective workout. These fun, simple activities can get the whole gang moving.

Plan a weekly family sports night.
Try games with multiple players like football, basketball or volleyball. You’ll spend quality time together and learn new ways to play while you reinforce concepts like teamwork and sportsmanship.

Sneak workouts into your day.
This can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of an escalator or having your child walk rather than ride in the grocery cart.

Turn exercise into a game.
Set up a household scavenger hunt: Compile a list of stray items like newspapers or shoes, then give the kids five minutes to collect as many as they can. The win goes to whomever picks up the most and returns them to the correct place.

For an outdoor alternative, Marie Schueren, a mom of four from Boothwyn, PA, recommends geocaching, an activity that involves using GPS coordinates to hunt for hidden objects. “The kids get so caught up in trying to be the first to find the cache that they forget to complain about being tired,” she says.

Get the whole family moving together

Theresa Kain of Wilmington, DE and her husband Kevin helm an athletic family. Their four children, ages 6 to 11, participate in sports such as track, cross country, basketball, baseball, gymnastics and soccer. This mom and dad also help coach a few of the kids’ teams at school.

When it comes to squeezing exercise into an already tight schedule, Kain stresses that any movement counts, even if it’s for a short period. “We are a busy family, so we don’t have a lot of time to do structured exercise together,” she says. “But with the time we do have, we love to play outdoors with the kids, whether it’s riding bikes or going for a walk.”

Melissa Small, a mom from Sinking Spring, PA, used to drop off her son at ATA Tae Kwon Do lessons. When the studio offered a free trial for moms, Small got hooked. Now, nearly a decade later, mom and son have each earned a first-degree black belt.

While her to-do list hasn’t shrunk, Small and her son push each other to practice. “We’ll be eligible for our second-degree black belts soon, and we know that in order to earn the next rank, we have to give it our all.”

Keep exercise interesting

A child’s enthusiasm can be fickle. So it’s crucial, these parents agree, to find strategies that add excitement to each physical activity.

“Our kids participate in different sports throughout the year, instead of doing the same ones year-round. They love the variety,” Kain says. “We let them set their own goals and encourage them to try new things.”

Schueren says her kids enjoy the unpredictability of hiking local parks and trails. “I try to look for interesting features in the park for us to explore, like creeks, waterfalls or challenging terrain,” she adds. “We also love searching for signs of critters.”

Benefits beyond fitness

Getting active as a family strengthens body, mind and relationships. “I feel stronger and more confident, which in turn makes me a better, stronger role model for my child,” Small asserts. “Not only have we enjoyed growing together, but my son also is motivated to make healthy choices when I’m not around because he sees me modeling that lifestyle.”

Kain says fitness has helped her family bond. “Devoting time to exercise with the kids leads to meaningful conversations and lets me get to know each of them in a unique way,” she concludes. “When we remove all of the distractions and busyness of our daily lives, we can really enjoy each other.”