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Family fitness: Fun ways to play your way into shape

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate statio...

Make fitness fun

Set an example for your kids: get fit having fun together in shared play activities.

mom and kids outside running

Children learn from the example of their parents. With the growing childhood obesity problem, it's important to take steps to keep your family fit! By keeping activities simple and fun, you'll be helping your kids, getting in your own exercise and sharing play time as a family. Everybody benefits!

Of course, you will want to provide healthy, nutritious meals as part of your fitness goals: lean proteins, whole grains and plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and veggies are key. Combined with even moderate physical activity, you'll be helping to protect your family from heart disease, weight issues and stress. Plus, exercise sends additional oxygen to the brain, so don't be surprised if your kids' academic performance improves and there's less bickering at home!

One step at a time

Buy a pedometer and let every member of the family wear it for a day. Compare notes on how far each of you walked, and talk about how you can increase the number. Aim for 10,000 steps a day -- it sounds like a big number, but a walk together after dinner, not parking near the entrance to the mall, movie or grocery store and a weekend family hike are all doable and will add up on your fitness scorecard!

Hunt for treasure

Go on a treasure hunt in your neighborhood. Team up and see which group finds the most items: leaves, a red door or other simple things kids can easily spot.

Ready, set, ride!

Hop on your bikes and hit the road! You can start with short neighborhood rides and build your endurance. Find out if there are bike paths and trails to use in a nearby park or green space. Smaller children can ride in a bumper seat or trailer, or pedal along on tricycles.

Play games

Play catch, frisbee or paddle-ball with the kids. Get a net at the sporting goods store and have a nightly game of volleyball in your back yard. Get a hula hoop and have a contest: who can keep it going longest? Kids catch on quickly and will swivel it in no time! Jump rope. Time each other with a stopwatch to determine who jumps the longest.

Gather neighborhood children and set up a game: basketball, softball, flag football, tag or hide-and-seek. Set up an obstacle course in the yard with things to climb over and crawl under, obstacles to run around and a sprint to the finish. Let the entire family compete, giving the youngest ones a time advantage based on age and ability. Play hopscotch in the driveway. Go to the public courts or local YMCA and lob tennis balls -- chasing balls will keep everyone moving. If you have a family gym membership, use the facilities -- shoot baskets, run or jog on the track, swim and splash in the pool. Keep the games and activities varied so everyone has fun, stays active and keeps moving!

Quick Tip

Find local resources for outdoor family play: public swimming pools and tennis courts, bike paths and areas where you can rollerblade, hiking trails and nature walks. Make it a weekly treat to go somewhere new for your playtime together!

More tips

Heart-healthy family activities
6 Ways to inject some fun into your fitness routine

The benefits of walking

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