It’s tough trying to carve out quality time for your family while also finding space in your busy schedule to make fitness a lifestyle habit. Luckily there’s an easy solution: combine the two, so you breaking a sweat and living healthy become a spirited family effort. “Being active as a family burns calories, builds strength, increases life expectancy, and also, it’s a great way to bond,” says Debi Pillarella, M.Ed, fitness program director of Fitness Pointe, a fitness center in Munster, Indiana, and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. Not to mention that encouraging your kids to be active now means they’re more likely to grow up and become physically fit adults.
Need some inspiration? Here are 11 fun, inclusive ways for family members of all skill levels to make moving around together a new tradition.
1. Jump for Joy
Indoor trampoline parks, typically consisting of a gymnasium-like room with a floor of interconnected trampolines, are bouncing up all over the country. The health benefits are anything but silly: Jumping on a trampoline gives your heart a great workout while strengthening your legs and core muscles.
2. Hunt a Hidden Treasure
Geocaching.com is a free website with millions of users who plan real-life treasure hunts in cities and counties across the nation. Once you register, you’ll be able to use your smart phone or GPS device to locate small containers, called “geocaches,” that other players have hidden in your vicinity. Or hide one yourself, then encourage family members to race to find it.
3. Walk (or Run) for Good
Summer and fall are prime seasons for one-mile charity fun runs and
fitness walks. Choose a low-key, untimed event and sign up the whole
family. It’s a great opportunity to cheer each other on while getting
involved in a worthy community cause.
4. Go to the Dogs
Dogs are a lot like personal trainers. No matter the weather, they’re going to insist on getting exercise every day. A local off-leash dog park is a perfect family destination. Grab a Frisbee or handful of tennis balls and prepare for a workout!
5. Revisit Old-School Games
Those neighborhood games you loved as a kid—such as hopscotch, handball, capture the flag, and four square—can torch some serious calories. Kids will love having their parents introduce them to these playground and backyard classics that encourage cooperation, teamwork, and a whole lot of fun.
6. Meet in an Alley
A bowling alley, that is. The local lanes are a great place to be active when it’s too rainy or cold to be outside. Knocking down pins can be a serious strength workout for your arms and legs, and even the youngest family members will have a blast rolling a ball and hoping for a strike.
7. Hold a Dance Contest
Dancing contests on TV are hugely popular with families. Instead of just watching contestants swing and step, hold a family competition: push back the furniture, turn on your iPod (or a high-energy video game like Just Dance), and see who busts the best moves.
8. Actively Celebrate
Rather than a sit-down birthday or holiday party, commemorate the occasion with some adrenaline-pumping activity, such as snow tubing, zip-lining, or a trip to a roller rink. Or go with a more relaxed family adventure, say walking a nature trail or stroll through a zoo.
9. See Your Garden Grow
Start your own family garden, either in your backyard or a neighborhood garden plot, and enlist every member’s help—from turning the dirt and planting seeds to patrolling for weeds. Let kids help pick out the fruit and vegetable seeds you plant so they’ll be more excited to eat them when they ripen.
10. Climb the Walls
Climbing gyms and regular health clubs with beginner rock walls are cropping up everywhere. Sign up for a family workshop or visit during an “open gym” session, where instructors are on hand to show your whole family the ropes. Climbing isn’t just for daredevils; even less athletically inclined kids will love strategizing their next (vertical) move to the top.
11. Sign Up for a Class
Make fitness an ongoing adventure by signing up your family for an introductory class that teaches a new activity. A few ideas for all fitness levels: tae kwon do, family-friendly yoga, parent-child horseback riding, and kayaking lessons. You’ll demonstrate to your kids that it doesn’t matter how skilled you are at a sport—the important thing is to try it out, and if you enjoy it, stick with it.