Rallying your family to become more physically active doesn’t have to be a chore if you choose fun activities. Even physical activities that are considered exercise can become an anticipated part of every day as long as you approach them with a positive attitude.
Involve the family in the planning
Have a family meeting to brainstorm activities that will be fun for the whole family. Consider everything from daily walks with the dog to weekend hiking trips. Then make a tentative schedule, allowing for weather changes or spur of the moment alternatives. Letting your family plan the schedule together will increase the chances that all of you stick to it.
Focus on the benefits
Focus on the benefits of physical activity. During your family meeting, have each member write down or say the benefits that the family will experience as a result of being active. For example, your kids will perform better at sports, your family as a whole will improve their health, and spending time together as a family will foster closeness. Post the list on the refrigerator as a family reminder that exercise does serve an important purpose.
Make exercise more like play
Doing jumping jacks or going for a walk alone can be boring. Come up with activities that are more fun and engaging. For example, set up obstacle courses in your yard or at the park, and have the family perform different exercises at various points in the course. Members can race each other to each point, do as many repetitions of a specified exercise as they can, race to the next point, and so on. Some health clubs have similar family fitness activities. Check the schedule of your local gym if a yard or park isn’t available. And make sure you keep the competition fun so you don’t end up with unhappy family members who won’t want to participate anymore.
Be a kid
Depending on the age of your children, you can always incorporate kid-like activities into your week. Play tag, kickball, hopscotch or dodgeball (with a ball made of soft material). You’ll be surprised how challenging these activities can be for adults! With older children, play touch football, basketball, soccer or other sports activities they enjoy. If you have infants or toddlers, even crawling around on the floor can get your heart rate up, especially if you do some strength-training exercises while you’re at it. Try pushups, ab crunches, yoga poses, Pilates moves and other muscle-building exercises. Your little tyke will find it quite entertaining and will mimic you as time goes on.
Go on active vacations
Even if your kids spend their free time sitting at the computer playing video games, they will be more agreeable on family trips if fun physical activities are included. One option is to take your family on a hiking vacation. (Camping in a tent isn’t necessary, but it’s definitely an outdoorsy option.) Or go on an adventure vacation to learn a new sport, such as scuba diving, kitesurfing, snowshoeing or rock climbing. Include sightseeing opportunities in your travels that require getting out of the car and walking.
Hold family contests
Turn physical activity into a win-win situation by setting reasonable goals for each family member and awarding the family members who reach their goals. Create a chart with various activities (walking, pull ups, squats, sprints, etc.) and set repetitions or duration for each exercise that is appropriate for each family member (i.e. Dad and Mom get a goal of 30 jumping jacks, while the kiddos get a goal of 20). Make a list of prizes and let each family member choose his reward once he’s accomplished his goal. Keep in mind that the rewards shouldn’t counter the health benefits of the physical activity — no extra servings of ice cream, junk food or other empty-calorie foods allowed.The best way to keep your family members enthused about physical activity and their health is to keep it fun. Be creative in the physical activities your family does, and family exercise will never be boring.