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Making fitness fun for the whole family

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Beyond the Sunday bike ride

It’s pretty much standard knowledge now that fitness is essential to a healthy life. As such, we encourage our kids to participate in sports and stay active -- and maintain exercise routines for overall fitness ourselves. Still, for some families, this fitness effort is piecemeal: Mom and dad do different things than the kids, and all of it needs to fit into the already crazy family schedule. But you can take family activity to a new level of fitness and fun by considering exercise a family activity that you do together.

family-going-for-a-walk


Playing catch at the end of the workday is great, but you're looking for more -- more activity, more family inclusiveness and more structure. You middle-aged knees are not up for soccer, either, much as you loved it as a kid. Ritual Sunday afternoon bike rides are a terrific way to stay active as a family and build the family bond, but they are not the only way for a family to be healthy and happy together. If you are looking for ways the family can be active and fit together, think outside the local kids' leagues for ways to stay active as a family and make fitness fun for all of you.

1Consider "Lifetime" sports

Look for lifetime sports that the family can do together and will be able to do together for decades to come. The intensity with which each member of the family participates will vary with age, but typically a person can enjoy a lifetime sport from childhood through retirement. As such, they are good candidate sports for a family. Tennis and golf are easy examples of lifetime sports, but also tai chi, cycling, hiking even or cross-country skiing.

>> Try these 10 ways to encourage an active family lifestyle

2Consider non-traditional sports

You may also want to consider "non-traditional" sports and physical activities such as rock-climbing, surfing, kayaking, rollerblading, snowshoeing, ultimate Frisbee or a host of others. Doing something a little different than everyone in town may be just the spark the family needs to keep at it.

3Learn together

If a sport or activity means learning a new skill, do it together. Look to local recreation programs and businesses for instruction opportunities. You can learn as part of a larger group -- or it might be most cost-effective to have private instruction just for your family.

>> Did you know that half of active children pursue non-traditional physical activities?

4Join a family sports league

Lifetime, non-traditional or very traditional, look for family sports leagues or multi-aged groups in which to participate. Parent-child tennis and golf tournaments are common, but what about entering a surfing competition together or a triathlon?

And if you don't find exactly what you are looking for, start a league of your own. There must be other families in your area looking for similar opportunity to be active and fit together. You'll all have fun and perhaps make some great new friends.

5Plan active vacations

Consider fitness activities as the focus of a family vacation. Many companies offer bike and paddle tours through beautiful areas of the country and world -- and doing it as a family makes it even more fun. If you don't want to every single day of your vacation or take advantage of package tours, you can still remain active on vacation by knowing your options and planning some activities in advance. Check out the travel section of the bookstore for active options at your vacation destination.

Looking for ways to be active and fit as a family not only make fitness more fun for the whole family, they are part of creating the family bond and traditions as well as promoting healthy lifestyle choices.

More on kids and exercise

How much is too much exercise for a child
Is yoga right for your child?
Best exercise games for healthy kids


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