Fit Mom, Fit Kids
Busy moms often find it a real challenge to make time for exercise. Rather than working out around your kids’ schedule, why not work out with them? Exercising with your children not only helps you stay in shape, it helps your kids stay fit and sets a great example of how to stay healthy and strong for life.
Playing outside with young children can be fun. “It also increases your physical activity and improves your child’s fundamental locomotor moves [large muscle movements],” says Debi Pillarella, a family fitness expert and American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer.
- Act like an animal. Kids this age adore animal antics. So give your child horsey rides, or take advantage of their active imaginations and walk like elephants, run like cheetahs, hop like bunnies, tiptoe like mice or stand on one leg like a flamingo. “Engage in games that use a variety of thematic movements,” says Pillarella.
- Opt for obstacles. Kids love obstacle courses, and it’s easy to set one up in the park or backyard, with objects for you and your kids to run around, climb on or jump over.
Children in elementary school
Kids this age are active by nature, but if your children are hooked on video games or glued to the TV, invite them out to the backyard for some fair-weather fun.
- Hold contests. Join in contests with your kids to see who can make up the coolest, funniest or most original dance. See who can hop on one foot, jump rope or Hula-hoop the longest. “A Hula-hoop provides a great ab workout: It works your core, hips and thighs, and is a good cardiovascular workout [if you can keep it up long enough],” says Jenn Givler, a certified personal trainer and fitness, dance and yoga instructor.
- Do relays. Start with basic relays, like running to the end of the yard, tagging a marker, and running back to start. Then encourage your children to make up variations. “Relays not only give you cardiovascular benefits, they also build strength, coordination, teamwork and good sportsmanship,” says Pillarella.
Tweens (older elementary)
As workout partners, tweens can be tricky. It’s important to find out what they really like to do.
- Be a sport. Let your children challenge you in their sport of choice to see if you can make the same shots, kicks or hits that they can. Let them boss you around a bit and you’ll both get exercise. “Keep it fun, not a chore, and you’ll all get a workout and not even realize it,” says Givler.
- Sign up. Take some lessons with your child to learn something new together, like kayaking, rock climbing or horseback riding. Or boost your cardiovascular fitness by signing up for local 5K runs or bike rides for charities.
Focus on activities your teenagers enjoy and will carry into their adult lives. If you like these activities too, then it’s a match.
- Get skills. Engage your teens in games that require a higher level of skill, such as tennis, racquetball or Frisbee.
- Outdoor fun. “Plan family adventure vacations that include hiking, biking, rock climbing, ice-skating, Rollerblading or beach walking,” says Pillarella. This could be the ultimate antidote to vacation pounds.