In our busy, hectic lives, both family time and fitness time may get shuffled to the bottom of our to-do lists. But maintaining good health and spending time with our families are essential to stress relief, longevity, and truly enjoying life. What’s the solution? Turn family time into family fitness time!
Remember that any activity your family chooses can be an opportunity to build relationships and maintain good health. Work as a team to come up with a list of different fitness activities that accommodate everyone’s schedules on a regular basis.
All ages will enjoy having their contribution to the family’s health acknowledged in the activity of the day.
There aren’t many kids who don’t like to swim–in fact, you might find the hard part of taking your kids swimming is getting them out of the pool when it’s time to go home! Once you’re all in the water together, the options for exercise are endless. Each of you can take turns deciding what to do next. Mom might pick running laps in the shallow end, while Dad might choose a treading water contest in the deep end.
The great thing is that everyone can participate to their ability level and still get plenty of exercise. Since being in the water supports body weight, it is ideal for family members who may have difficulty with impact activities or are suffering from an injury. An hour of swimming can burn up to 300 calories, gives all the major muscle groups in your body a good workout, and is great exercise for your heart and lungs.
Hiking and Walking
How about an activity that costs very little and doesn’t take specialized skills or equipment? All you need is a good pair of walking shoes for each family member, a backpack or two, water, and some snacks. Most communities offer green space where families can enjoy walks in the woods or other natural terrain.
Coming up with a theme for the hike often awakens children’s interests and motivates them to keep moving. For instance, in early spring kids can look for signs of new plant and animal life. They can keep a written list (or one in their heads) for later at home, where they can draw pictures to go along with their discoveries. Even in the winter, the whole family can look for animal tracks and signs of winter life.
While everyone is getting some exercise (walking can burn up to 100 calories per hour and works the cardiovascular system while toning and strengthening the legs), nature walks can be educational for children and adults alike. It’s guaranteed your kids will want to share their discoveries during show-and-tell at school!
It’s wonderful to see that many communities are now paving over old railway tracks and canal towpaths into traffic-free, family-friendly cycling routes. Older and younger children will love the freedom of being able to bike as fast or slow as they like without worrying about car traffic. If your children are too young to cycle on their own, you can get child seats or attachments that link their bikes right to Mom’s or Dad’s.
You can also take it a step further and look into some of the provincial or national forest parks offering cycle-ways. Kids love the adventure of going to new places, and the whole family will benefit from spending time away from the city to take in the beauty and quiet of the natural world. The final bonus is that cycling improves cardiovascular fitness, keeps muscles strong and toned, and burns several hundred calories per hour.
Close-to-Home Outdoor Activities
Don’t take the simple things in life for granted! Remember that time spent in the garden, a game of tag in the backyard, or some fun on the swings and slides at the local playground all provide great family quality time while also ensuring everyone gets some exercise.
Be sure that all family members get involved, and take turns so that everyone–big and small–has the chance to be active. The kids will love it, and you will all benefit from moving your muscles and getting your heart rates up.