Having kids can be a great motivator to stay active — but it also makes it more challenging than ever to get workout time for yourself. The solution? Get the whole family involved. Here are some real-world tested ideas to make staying active as a family more enjoyable.
Get moving outside: Hike, jog, walk, or ride bikes
You can do many easy exercise activities outside, with or without kids, to get the moderate-to-vigorous activity time the CDC recommends for adults (150 minutes per week). For example, you can take a walk around the neighborhood, ride a bike, go for a jog, or adventure out to a hiking trail. Here are some tips on how to plan a meltdown-free, active outing with kids.
Start close to home
You don’t want to discover that a 5-mile hike is too far when you’re already halfway up a mountain. Start with loops near your home so you and your kids can take breaks when necessary. An activity tracker can help you learn what pace and distances work for you and your group. Build up to longer walks or rides, and you’ll feel more confident about planning an adventure your entire family can enjoy.
Bring the right gear
Your best-laid plans can fall to pieces if your preschooler can’t keep up. Investing in the proper equipment can significantly affect the comfort level and effectiveness of your workouts.
Some hiking carriers can hold kids up to 40 pounds, giving little ones a break and distributing weight evenly to protect a parent’s back. If you like running, a jogging stroller can provide you and your child with a smoother experience. Babies may even fall asleep snuggled up in a wearable carrier that leaves parents hands-free during walks.
Last but not least, remember that everyone should have sturdy walking shoes.
Engage kids’ senses
A kid whining, “I’m bored” can make it difficult to enjoy outdoor time. Planning activities along the way can keep your kids interested.
- Play music. Sing campfire songs or play a favorite album.
- Make a scavenger hunt. Spot something in nature in every color of the rainbow.
- Play BINGO. Download and print free BINGO cards from a website online.
- Create a leaf rubbing. Paper and a few crayons are light to carry. Bring the materials with you so you can take a craft break outdoors (and get inspiration for grown-up autumn art).
Find an exercise video you love: High-intensity, dance, or yoga
Following an exercise video at home can be an effective way to work out when it’s cold or rainy. Some video types that work exceptionally well for families include:
High-intensity interval workouts like Tabata
Brief, intense bursts of activity can promote improved body composition and fitness, and kids can enjoy the novelty of new movements.
Kid-friendly dance videos
Shaking it to your family’s favorite songs can be a fun way to get everyone’s hearts pumping. (Check out this Encanto dance workout.)
Tips and tricks for family video workouts
- Start with short videos. A toddler’s attention span may only last up to six minutes. A 6-year-old’s attention span may last up to 18 minutes. Short and sweet is the secret to success.
- Keep it simple. Complicated choreography can be tricky for kids to follow (and even for some adults!). Simple exercises boost the chances that they’ll want to join in with you. Even little kids can squat, jump, and get on all fours to mimic push-ups.
- Give your kids props. If you’re using hand weights, give your child a stuffed animal to lift alongside you.
- Find kid-friendly options. Depending on your child’s age, you might want to pre-screen videos to ensure you’re comfortable with the song selections.
- Give everyone their own designated space. Assign each participant a section on the floor or their own mat to avoid bumping into each other. Certain exercises, like kettlebell swings, may be safest to do when the kids are out of the room.
- Incorporate exercise into the daily routine. A high-energy workout might be a great way to let off steam after school or daycare. A 10-minute yoga video can be a soothing way to start the bedtime routine.
Functional fitness exercises, family-style
Functional fitness is having a moment, and it’s easy to incorporate into your life. Functional fitness prepares you to pull, push, squat, lunge, hinge, and twist during your normal daily activities.
Waterproof snow pants will keep kids warm longer. Remember to take breaks for snow angels and snowball fights, too.
Put the leaf blower away this autumn. Instead, rake and bag the old-fashioned way to get the benefits of hinging and squatting.
Carrying mulch, squatting to plant, and trimming trees or hedges can work your muscles. Most kids will love having their own small section to dig or plant seeds and use a watering can.
Make an obstacle course
Draw inspiration from your surroundings and the materials you already own. Make a balance beam with a plank and stumps. Construct a tunnel with pool noodles or a long-jump challenge with hula hoops. You can even make an indoor Mission Impossible-inspired obstacle course with a ball of yarn and some tape.
Frisbee, badminton, or beach ball volleyball are fun kid-friendly ideas. Be sure to give your child a special role to feel included (like retrieving the birdie or distracting the better-playing parent to even out the game).
Do piggyback ride races
Many parents like to work out so they have more energy to keep up with their kids. Put that into practice by giving piggyback rides or pulling your kids in a sled or wagon.
One study found that a few five-minute sessions, or 10-20 minutes of jumping rope per week, was enough to improve jumping and endurance run performance. You’ll begin to feel the benefits if you can sneak in a few minutes of skipping rope while the kids play — or join them in a backyard game of Double Dutch.
Exercising as a family is an easy way to stay active
Exercising as a parent doesn’t need to be a perfect, uninterrupted hour at the gym. Squeeze in a few minutes here and there, and don’t be afraid to invite your kids to join in on the fun. You can get in a great workout while simultaneously setting an example for a healthy and enjoyable approach to fitness.