Remember the days before you had kids? Leisurely lunches with friends, long nights out and mornings spent sleeping in, virtually unlimited time to work out. Now that you’re a parent, though, your reality has undoubtedly changed.
Yes, you’ve gained the incredible gift of having a child (or children), but long gone are those hours-long bike rides and gym sessions — you may be finding it difficult to fit any exercise into your hectic days! Work commitments, after-school and weekend activities, and the ins and outs of daily life can sap you of the time you need to get in a good sweat session on the daily, that’s for sure. Plus, after spending much of the day away from your kids, you’re probably wanting to enjoy time with them — not with strangers at the gym!
Rest assured that there is a way to accomplish two goals at once: family workouts. Whether they’re structured or impromptu activities, family exercises can benefit you and everyone involved — not only in the health benefits they offer, but in family bonding and in quality time spent together. Plus, they’re just fun!
Read on for our complete guide to exercising as a family.
The many benefits of exercise
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Exercise has the potential to offer a seemingly endless list of physical and other benefits. Here are just a few, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ National Library of Medicine:1
- Exercise can help you control your weight and prevent obesity.
- It can improve your circulation and strengthen your heart, reducing your risk of cardiac disease.
- It can help lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
- It can help manage your blood-sugar and insulin levels — possibly reducing your risk of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.
- It can help you manage stress by releasing chemicals that promote relaxation.
- It can help make your bones and muscles stronger.
- It can help improve your sleep.
But exercise isn’t important just for adults, it’s important for your younger ones too. Getting your kids active can help them develop the habits to keep them healthier for life.2
How much exercise is enough?
Adults should aim to get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day, or at least 150 minutes per week.
7 fun family fitness ideas
You already know that getting regular exercise is good for you and your kids. But what are some ways you can get healthier together? Read on for a host of fun outdoor activities for the family, along with a few you can do inside, too!
1. Play in the yard
Now that the weather’s starting to warm up and the days are getting longer, why not take advantage of family outdoor activities? Put the dinner in the oven, grab your kids and head outside for some family fun. Whether you’re playing frisbee or tag, climbing trees or playing fetch with Fido, burning off some energy (and calories!) before dinner is a win-win!
2. Take a walk after dinner
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Take a post-dinner leisurely walk together – it doesn’t need to be strenuous to reap the benefits! Use the time to move your bodies, engage in some conversation and spend time together.
3. Learn a new sport with your kids
Have you always wanted to learn to play tennis? Want to give yoga a shot? How about waterskiing? Find an age-appropriate activity that your kids are interested in and sign up together!
4. Play like a kid
Remember when you used to play just for the pure joy of it? Chances are you weren’t thinking about the exercise you were getting — you were just having fun. Why not try the same thing now? Follow your kids’ cue or throw out a few ideas of your own: Play hide-and-seek, jump rope or capture the flag. The possibilities are nearly endless.
5. Garden as a family
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Get the kids involved not only in the planting of your fruits, veggies and flowers, but also in the maintenance: Raking, weeding and digging provide great exercise for everyone. And you’ll get plenty of healthy vitamin D, to boot! (Just be sure to wear your sunscreen and sun hats.)
6. Boogie down
Put on some rousing music that everyone enjoys and dance. Not only is it great fun to let loose — and a fantastic stress reliever, too — but it’ll give you all a great aerobic workout, we promise!
7. Splash around
Looking for an outdoor activity to do over the weekend as a family? If the weather’s warm, head to a local swimming pool, lake or beach and spend some time in the water. Swim laps, play water volleyball, try a game of Marco Polo — you’ll all have a blast!
Tips for keeping family exercise fun
By exercising together you’ll not only get some healthy movement, but you’ll also spend quality time as a family — and in the process, help build healthy habits for everyone. Here are a few ideas to keep things fun!
- Give everyone something to look forward to. Impromptu play is great, but so is having regular, planned activities that you all can count on. Why not consider scheduling one morning or afternoon each weekend for family exercise time? Whether it’s a long bike ride, a morning at the park or an afternoon hike, put it on the calendar so physical activity becomes a regular part of your family life.
- Get your kids involved in the planning. Designate one person to choose the weekend activity each week. (Hint: Some parameters might be helpful here!)
- Switch things up. Try not to fall into a rut of doing the same thing day in and day out — or week in and week out, for that matter. There are so many different activities you can do together as a family to keep yourselves entertained and engaged … plus, you’ll use different muscles by moving your bodies in different ways!
- Keep it fun. Sure, it’s great to work up a good sweat, but you don’t need to be a hardcore fitness fanatic to reap the rewards of healthy movement. Keep it fun, do it regularly and you’ll all benefit.
Today’s hectic lifestyle can make it difficult to make your own health and fitness a priority, especially if you’re trying to balance the needs of your family at the same time. We hope these tips have given you plenty of ideas about how to practice good self-care while spending high-quality time with your loved ones. Now go out and have some good family fun!
Want more healthy exercise ideas? Your dedicated Jenny Craig weight loss coach can help you come up with a personalized meal and workout plan to fit your lifestyle. Contact us today for a free appointment!
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
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