7 Ways to Model Fitness for your Kids

Anywhere you look – online, on TV, in the store – there are things out there telling you how important it is to stay fit and healthy. However, it can be difficult to incorporate a daily fitness regimen into your routine, and it can be hard to workout with your kids around. But it is important as parents that we model this behavior to our children early on so that it is engrained in their lifestyle as they continue to grow. So how do we do both – model a healthy lifestyle while balancing our busy schedules?


The Family that Works out Together

Research has shown that families that participate in active, physical activities together are more likely to keep up with those activities over a longer period of time. They also find more enjoyment in doing those activities when they are with others. Research also has shown that children find particular enjoyment in doing physical games with family members because they feel engaged with the parents. Instead of being taught, the child often feels like the teacher if they are given the opportunity to initiate the games. Playing together as a family also helps to promote cooperative play among youngsters. 

Probably one of the most beneficial reasons for families to engage in active time together is the bond it creates between children and parents. Social bonds are important to a child’s development, and active physical fitness can help to create loving memories that the family will cherish for years down the road. It’s also important to get these shared moments before your kid’s lives get too busy – before you know it, they won’t be home to crawl around the floor oinking like a pig anymore, and even though you might not think it now, you’re going to miss it!


1. Walk it Out

One of the easiest ways to get your family moving is by going for a walk together. And although it isn’t the most intense form of exercise, you can still reap amazing benefits from doing it. Research has shown that walking can help maintain your weight, prevent heart disease, stave off those afternoon energy dips, and keeps you happy. However, especially with older kids, it can be hard to get them motivated to go for a walk with you. There are several ways to make walks more interesting than shuffling around the block a few times. Here are a few ideas:

  • Scavenger hunt – Try to find certain things in your neighborhood while you walk. Check out this printable if you need some ideas. 
  • Nature walk – Take a walk on the wild side and explore the nature surrounding your neighborhood. No matter if you are in an urban area, a rural back country, a coastal town, or a suburban neighborhood, nature is everywhere. Click here for a nature walk printable to take along with you.
  • Move it – You don’t have to just walk! Make your walk a little more exciting by doing certain things every time you see something. For example, when you see a stop sign, do ten jumping jacks. If you see a red car, do five jump squats. You can even let your kids make the rules to help make them feel a part of the process. 

2. Family Hike

A great way to get out and explore a place around you is to go for a family hike. Not only will your family be getting some quality time together but you will also get invaluable physical activity by working on gross motor skills with climbing and moving over large structures. It also gives you an opportunity to teach your children about working together to stay safe, cooperative planning to make sure you don’t get lost, and survival skills. Here are some things you can do to make your hike more than just a walk in the woods:

  • Let them help plan items you may need on your hike including food, water, and safety items.
  • Show them the map of the trail and let them try and figure out which way to go while you’re out and about. It’s also a great time to show them how to work a compass. 
  • Stop and take in your surroundings and play into their personalities. If your child is more of the creative type, let them take a few pictures of nature. If your child is active, let them jump and climb over structures. If your child is a bookworm, bring a notebook and let them write down what they see. If your child is an artist, bring a sketchpad so they can draw a picture of their surroundings. 

3. Bike Rides

Family bike rides are a wonderful way to get out and get some exercise together. Cycling helps to work all major muscle groups and it is a low impact form of exercise. It also is a relatively cheap form of physical activity, requiring little in the way of paying to do something fun together. And like all forms of physical activity, bike riding can lower rates of obesity, stave off certain health diseases, and make you happy. 

Getting out and enjoying your local pedestrian and walking trails is great for both parents and kids. But you can always venture off the beaten path and take your bikes where you might normally use a car. Below are some fun options to get your kids excited to hop on their bikes:

  • Grocery store
  • Ice cream shop
  • Local park
  • Community pool or recreation center
  • Coffee shop (for mom and dad!)

4. Park Workouts

There is no doubt that kids love to go to the park. The park offers great physical exercise for kids, giving them a place to run, jump, and climb. From monkey bars to ladders, slides to swings – there are so many things to help keep your kids moving. But what about Mom and Dad? 

Even if your kids are playing independently at a neighborhood playground, doesn’t mean you can’t get a workout in. Many strength training exercises can be done with just your body weight or by using some of the playground structures at the park. Check out this workout below to get in a good sweat while your kids do the same:

Warm Up

Using the perimeter of the playground, do the following:
Slow jog
High knees
High skip
Slow jog

Workout

HITT – Do each exercise for 1 minute with 15-30 seconds of rest in between.

  • Jump squats
  • Superman pushups
  • Alternating lunges
  • Supine bicycles
  • Up/Down planks
  • Tricep dips
  • Calf raises
  • Box jumps
  • Pull ups
  • X jumps
Cool Down

Slow walk/jog around the perimeter of the playground
Stretch

To make your park workout more of a workout, try riding your bike or running from home to the playground and back!

For more ideas on workouts you can do at the playground, click here.

5. Family Games

You don’t have to leave your house to get some family exercise in. There are plenty of games and activities you can do both indoors and outdoors with the kids that will get your blood pumping and bodies moving. A family friendly game of soccer, football, or even tag can bring the family together having fun. Kids have wonderful imaginations, and they will come up with variations to well-known activities to make them more fun if you give them the opportunity. Below are some options of lesser known games you can play together as a family right in your own home:

  • Pass the Water
  • Human Ring Toss – Try to get rings around your partner by using hula hoops or inner-tube rings
  • Fill the Bucket – Each set of teams relay races to fill their bucket with water by using another bucket filled with water and a sponge. 
  • Freeze Tag
  • Obstacle course – A great way to get the kids involved is to allow them to create the obstacle course for you!

6. Organized Sports

It is well known that organized sports can take quite a bit of resources away from families including time and money. But organized sports like tee ball, baseball, and soccer are great ways for your kids to learn cooperative play, leadership skills, and group physical fitness. One great way to model a healthy lifestyle for your kids is to participate – either as a volunteer or as a coach – in their organized sports. Not only will you be able to spend more time with your child, but they will also see that you have a vested interest in their health and wellbeing.

Take a look around your community to find some organized sports and activities to do with your child. Your county parks and recreation department may have some options in addition to private organizations and schools. Here are some organized activities to keep an eye out for if your child isn’t interested in the typical group activities:

  • Mommy and Me Swim Classes
  • Gymnastics
  • Dance classes
  • Mommy and Me Yoga
  • Classes such as surfing, snorkeling, karate, or tae-kwon-do 

7. Family Races

One of the most common forms of exercise is running. A great way to get your family involved in running together, outside of pushing the kids in strollers, is to run a family-friendly race together. Many smaller, community races have shorter fun runs designed specifically for kids. They often get a t-shirt and/or a medal to commemorate their accomplishment, making it that much more fun for kids. Some races even offer diaper dashes for your smaller tots!

Your older children may surprise you in the distances they are able to run. Some 6 to 7 year olds are able to easily run a 5k with some training. Doing training runs with your kids is another great way for them to see you maintaining a healthy lifestyle and working on your individual fitness. If both you and your kids are new to running, a great program to start your running journey is the Couch to 5k, which will help you to increase your distance in a slow and steady pace. It is a great program to do with kids, too!

Looking for some fun races to do with your kids in your community? Here are a list of nationwide races that are short, sweet, and fun!

Looking for more fun kid races in your area? Check out Active.com to search for a list around you!


Staying fit as a family is not only a great way to help create memories, it is also a great way to develop healthy habits with your kids at a young age, so they can continue on with that lifestyle as they get older. Being active as a family makes everyone happier and healthier, and there are so many different ways in which you can do it – from walking the neighborhood to taking a long bike ride. 

Looking for more ways to stay fit with your family? Check out this post on Crossfit for Families: Benefits and Bonus Home Workout here on Daily Mom!

Resources: Very Well, Real Simple


This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.

Photo credits: Lauren Lomsdale, Loren KernsStuart MoulderIsabella Truili

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Lauren Lomsdale

Lauren is a full-time mom of three girls, who also happens to run her own in-home preschool. She loves to write, run, yoga-it-out, and keep fit. She’s kind of crunchy in her homeschooling, cloth diapering, and natural products sort of way, but she also loves Starbucks and trashy tv. For more about her internal judgments of herself and hilarious quips about motherhood, follow her on IG and Twitter @thescoopmama, fb.com/thescoopmama, as well as her website theSCOOPmama.

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