10 Family Fitness Tips to Get You Moving Together

We don’t need to tell you that kids learn by example. When you have the time to slow down, they like nothing more than “helping” you with whatever you are up to: cooking dinner, sorting tupperware, wrapping gifts, walking the dog.

Channel that learning-by-doing energy into fitness and you’ve solved one of the biggest quandaries busy parents face: how to fit exercise in between demanding 9–6 jobs, chores, meal planning, shopping and prep, bill paying, after-school activities. The solution: Get it all done by getting active as a family.

Parents & Kids Should Get Active Together

“We know from many studies that children are more likely to be active if their parents are,” says Jennifer Huberty, PhD, associate professor of physical activity and health promotion at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. Being active with your children, Huberty says, is also how they build confidence and valuable life skills.

What’s more, getting fit with your kids is another way to get the important quality time you and they need. There’s nothing like shooting hoops at the YMCA, taking a run, doing yoga stretches, playing catch to get you all in the moment—together. There are plenty of family games and family activities out there. Need some ideas to get moving? Try these:

Family Fitness Tips & Ideas:

  • Get help: Wondering how to get started? Consult a fitness trainer, relaying your family members’ ages, activity levels and skills. If you’re lucky, you may snag a free consultation from your local gym.
  • Family warmups: Kids love to dive right into whatever they are doing. But when it comes to exercise, that exuberance can do more harm than good. Teaching them to warm-up and cool-down after exercise is an important skill that could spare them injury later on.
  • Come up with a plan: Ask your kids what they want to do. Put some options on the table that will get you all your recommended daily active minutes and vote. You’ll have fun planning, plus dividing up the week’s total minutes per activity—45 minutes for Monday’s yoga class, 60 minutes for Zumba on Saturday—is a fun way to build math skills!
    • Mix it up: Doing the same-old every week is no way to keep you or your kids motivated. Make sure your family fitness plan is a varied menu of active fun. Plan one month out and make sure your week contains a mix of strength and cardio workouts. Try out different classes and activities. Come back to ones everyone enjoyed; scrap the duds.
  • Do chores together: No one likes the idea of housework. But if you put on some music, set the timer and make the vacuuming, dusting and scrubbing a competition, you’ll be surprised how fast you all get your heart rates up and get it all done. Make a fun fitness activity the reward—bowling, ice skating, a swim at a local indoor pool—and you’ll end the day with a cleaner house and happy (tired) kids.
  • Ditch the car: As often as you can. Whenever possible do your errands as a family on foot, bicycle, skateboard—and swing by the local playground on the way home!
  • Weekly family outings: Picnics to the local park, a trip to the beach, a hike in the woods—none of these have to be billed as fit family activities. But that’s exactly what they are. Rethinking your leisure activities—choosing movement over, say, going to the movies—is a great way to incorporate more exercise into everyday life.
  • Work the buddy system: The more the merrier. Pairing up another family will make it more fun for everyone and give you the option of breaking up into smaller groups. Moms and older teens can play tennis while dads and younger children play kickball.
  • Respect rest time: Active kids and parents naturally sleep better but fitness timeouts are just as important as getting your full eight hours every night. After particularly vigorous workouts, muscles need time to heal, so make sure you and the kids build days off into your fitness schedule.
  • Take on water: Don’t wait till you feel thirsty. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, everyday. Of all the skills kids take-away from an active family life, this may be one of the most important!