Make it a Family Affair: Fun Ways to Get Everyone Involved in an Exercise Routine
“Make family time active time,” is the simple advice from the professionals at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for parents who not only want to get their kids up and moving, but also want to get themselves off the couch. Exercise comes in many forms, and just because a family doesn't have a gym membership or a room full of treadmills in their home doesn't mean they can't exercise – and exercise together. There are a lot of ways to make exercise a family affair and fun for everyone, of all ages. Here are just a few suggestions.
“We Can!” - The NIH Gateway to Family Exercise
“We Can!” is the slogan and the acronymn for NIH's family exercise encouragement program. The letters stand for “Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition.” This site and program are the introduction and gateway to getting families to become active and exercise together. As the site notes, “we are not asking your children to train like athletes,” and there are a lot of simple steps parents can take even by making use of everyday activities to get the whole family moving – and moving together.
Walk More and Walk Together
Walking is the simplest, easiest and most basic of all exercises – and also about the best form of exercise there is, explain the professionals at NIH. No special equipment or gym memerships are required (although a good pair of walking shoes is a solid investment) and walking is something that can be done anywhere. That includes not only hiking the Appalachian Trail, but also “taking the family dog for a longer walk,” or “turning a Sunday drive into a Sunday walk,” as the NIH site advises. There are many ways to get the family walking together, such as strolling through the park, ambling about the zoo or even just putting one foot in front of the other to go to window shop in the mall.
Taking Advantage of Community Amenities
Dancing, skating and swimming are excellent forms of exercise – not to mention activities that are a lot of fun for families to do together. Many community centers, churches or schools offer dance classes that are inexpensive and open to families – or host dances. Many schools or Ys with pools offer swimming lessons and open swims. Skating – roller or ice – is another option open to families who live near a rink. NIH suggests making the most of all conditions, and making an activity plan based on what's available in the area or neighborhood.
What Worked for One Family: An Indoor Pool
The Campbell family of Bethesda, Maryland was so serious about losing weight that the parents invested in an in-ground pool – and then built a greenhouse type structure to house it, making it a year-round pool. The parents started by doing laps individually, and then together. After teaching the two children, a boy and a girl, to swim, they got them involved in little water games – races, playing tag, hitting pool balls into inner tubes and a basketball net and other activities. The children were encouraged to invite their friends to play and swim and race in the pool. The pool proved to be a sound and healthy investment, as it helped everyone in the family become more fit and limber, to lose weight, and to have fun together as a family.
While most families cannot afford the luxury of their own pool let alone indoor pool, many families can get just the same results from going regularly to a community, school or Y pool.
Using Technology to Help Everyone Work Together
Families can set distance and time goals if they wish, and make a routine or a game out of walking – or any form of exercise. For those technologically inclined there are many inexpensive step-counting devices as well as apps for smart phones, most of which allow for a group (like family or friends) to link or share their progress. The basic Endomondo app, for example, like many similar applications, is free. There are many others to choose from, like Digifit Icardio, Fitbit, and Sports Tracker, just to name a few: