I’m always astonished and delighted by how 30 minutes of huffing and puffing can make any day seem better. Yet, finding time to exercise with our everyday lives can be a challenge—especially when you add a kid or two to the equation. It’s important to not only figure out a way to make exercise a part of your life, but to turn it into a family activity, too. Doing so helps you share the joy of getting outside, and lets your kids understand for themselves how good movement can feel.
Thing is, play is truly part of children’s nature, and in fact with all the electronic devices and social media around, our society has taken kids away from something that should be instinctual. Don’t you remember your mom telling you to go outside and play, and you came in just at dark to wash up for dinner? Those were wonderful times.
I have three daughters, and my husband and I try our best to approach exercise with them in a simple way—making it seem like play, or an adventure. (An adventure by the way doesn’t have to be epic, far from home, or take several hours. It could be something in your backyard.)
Fitting in Exercise
It can be difficult to leave infants with a sitter, so I always found it best to incorporate them into my workouts. There is a steep sand dune near my home, so I would strap my baby to me, and plod up at my own pace. She would inevitably fall asleep, I would sweat all over her little being, and we were both the better for it.
When children are younger, it’s also important to remember nap time is king. I’d keep a stability ball and dumbbells handy, and whenever one of the girls was willing to take a nap, I was just six feet away lunging and squatting for as long as my window allowed.
When the kids get a little older, you can step it up to a family bike ride, or have them ride while you jog or walk at a brisk pace. You can make a game of it, and put your little one in charge of your Fitbit data. For example, did you go as far today as yesterday, or go farther—faster? Things like that engage children; they have fun yet also feel included in what you’re doing.
Letting it Happen…Naturally
My oldest daughter started lifting with me when she was about 16. You don’t want to introduce resistance training too early, because if your child’s form is off, or if she tries to use too much weight, she could damage the growth plates on her bones. It’s safer even for older children to use their own bodyweight, or work with light bands. Keep exercise easy.
I should point out, too, that I never forced my daughter to work out, but merely invited her, and when she was interested, she joined. I was always impressed by how hard she worked, and I was careful not to over-correct her or “mother” her. Unless your child is doing something harmful—like lifting a too-heavy weight—try to give her as much room as possible.
Sharing the Love
No matter what, juggling it all is a challenge. I’m not going to lie: Some days as I look at my kids with their faces glued to an electronic device, I think I’m failing miserably. I realize though, that I can do better tomorrow.
If you need help motivating your kids to exercise, include their friends. Plan a little adventure hike, or an outing, and encourage your children to invite a friend or two. If they see their friends enjoying themselves or going for it, your kids may be less likely to give up or complain.
The bottom line is that family activities often turn into a comedy of errors, so don’t ever worry that your family is the only one that can’t play nice. Not true.
Simply share your love and passion for movement with your family, and they will use it as a tool their entire lives. Aside from kindness, a strong work ethic, and good manners—what better thing to pass on?
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.