Family fitness: 15 fun activities for the whole family
We all know staying active is good for us. Scientific evidence shows exercise helps us lead healthier and happier lives: physically active kids have stronger muscles and bones and improved health and fitness. They also sleep better, feel better and are more able to concentrate, build social skills, and maintain a healthy weight. Parents enjoy similar benefits: they may also find exercise boosts energy, helps them keep up with the kids and eases stress. Exercising as a family sets a good example to children, builds healthy habits, boosts motivation and nurtures relationships — but most of all, it’s fun!
Here are some weekly ideas for you and the family to exercise together:
- 1. Enjoy the great outdoors: explore your neighbourhood parks. Get out and about in the fresh air with a game of Frisbee, rounders or cricket. Bonding over a bit of friendly competition is great for family life, plus you’ll be so busy trying to win the game, you won’t notice you’re working up a sweat.
- 2. Make a splash: ducking and diving or racing your kids in the pool is excellent cardio. Plus it gets the kids off the screen while building water confidence: an essential life-saving skill.
- 3. Go orienteering: this fantastic outdoor challenge gets you out in the fresh air, exploring your local area for free. Take a compass, a map and a healthy picnic. Bonus points if you leave your phone (and electronic map) at home!
- 4. Break a sweat while watching TV: try ‘the ad break challenge’. Next time the family watches TV together, during every commercial break, set a fitness challenge. Who can hold the longest plank? Who can do the most burpees?
- 5. Do a good deed. Can you help a relative or a neighbour with some chores as a family? Offer to mow the lawn, walk their dog or do their grocery shopping. Doing active tasks for others who are less able sets an excellent example on so many levels.
- 6. Go on a family bike ride. If your kids are too young to pedal under their own steam, look into child seats or trailers. The extra weight on your bike will get your heart pumping. The fresh air will help children sleep.
- 7. Jump to it on the trampoline. Trampolining is the exercise of choice for Nasa: it builds strength in bones, is gentle on the joints, stimulates the lymphatic system and gets the heart pumping. Plus its so much fun you’ll hardly notice you’re out of breath!
- 8. Have a family disco. Crank up the feel-good tunes and get your groove on. Mastering the ‘Floss’ is excellent for coordination and cardio, not to mention the laughs.
- 9. Take the family pedometer challenge.Invest in a pedometer and have each family member take turns wearing it for a day. Compare notes on how far everyone walked, and brainstorm about how you can increase the number. Aim to get everyone walking 10,000 steps a day. Who will get there first?
- 10. Sign up for a family exercise challenge: from Race for Life to The Colour Run or even your local ParkRun, there’s plenty of events to focus your efforts as a family. And nothing beats running through the finish line together.
- 11. Yoga benefits all generations. Kids have fun expressing themselves and exploring postures while teens and adults welcome the chance to nurture their mind and body. Why not weave a story using the postures if children are struggling.
- 12. Take your ‘circuit’ skills to a new level at the park. Lots of parks have outdoor gym equipment or why not create your own obstacle course? You’ll be too busy trying to impress your kid to notice how much exercise you’re doing.
- 13. Grow healthy in the garden: research shows digging, raking and planting is as good as weight training when it comes to preventing osteoporosis, and growing healthy veg is a great way to get kids to try more greens.
- 14. Get nostalgic with some playground games: from hopscotch to skipping, there’s plenty of ways to break a sweat while sharing some old fashioned fun.
- 15. Go for a pre or post meal walk: cruising your neighbourhood on foot is a great way to get the whole family out in the fresh air. If the kids need encouragement, why not take a scooter or turn it into a treasure hunt?
We all know staying active is good for us. Scientific evidence shows exercise helps us lead healthier and happier lives: physically active kids have stronger muscles and bones and improved health and fitness. They also sleep better, feel better and are more able to concentrate, build social skills, and maintain a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, current statistics show that 1 in 5 school pupils aged 11-15 are obese. Meanwhile, 9 in 10 young females and 8 in 10 young males don't meet the government guidelines for physical activity. In part, this is why we’ve established The Nuffield Health Schools Wellbeing Activity Programme (SWAP) which aims to empower students to improve their wellbeing. Find out more about SWAP.
Staying active is just as important for parents: exercise boosts energy, helps parents keep up with their kids and eases stress. The most important thing, however, is to have fun with exercise!
Last updated Tuesday 9 July 2019
First published on Monday 8 July 2019