The start of the school year is hectic for parents and kids alike. Between keeping up with school work and maintaining a busy social calendar, it’s easy to put fitness on the back burner.
I’ve found that many families have a hard time fitting in fitness when things ramp up in the fall. Parents come home exhausted from work, kids are excited to socialize with their friends and each family member feels pulled in different directions.
A little secret: Setting fitness goals as a family is a great way to get it done. It models healthy habits for your kids and ensures you get in on the action, too! Add some healthy competition to the mix and everyone benefits!
Not sure how to get started? Try these 7 strategies for fitness that’s fun for the whole family:
- Take a walk. Whether you commute by foot to drop your kids off at school or take an evening stroll, build a walk into your daily schedule. To make the new routine stick, sit down as a family and decide how many miles you’re going to walk each week. Then set aside the time—and mark it on a calendar—to ensure you stay on track. You can take the same approach with biking and jogging. Want bonus points? Mix things up along the way, with a quick set of push-ups, lunges or squats.
- Create a challenge. Each week, challenge your family with a new activity. From push-ups and sit-ups to bench-pressing younger (and smaller) family members, the options are almost limitless. The first week, for example, you might challenge each family member to do a certain number push-ups, adjusting the goal based on age and fitness level. Then, work through each of the large muscle groups with a different activity each week (think sit-ups, lunges and squats). By switching areas each time, you’ll work out the entire body over the course of a month.
- Sign up for an event. Team up with your children and participate in a charity run (October and November are prime times for these events). The point: If you have an event three months out, you have a goal to train for, and family members can hold each other accountable. You can even recruit other families (cousins, friends and co-workers) to get in on the action. In the process, you’ll not only model the value of exercise, but also the power of giving back.
- Start a weekly sports night. Get a few families (school pals, neighbors) involved in a standing game of soccer or flag football. Team sports not only help kids hone the skills they learn in gym class, they also build social skills. By hosting a team sport, family fitness will feel less like formal exercise and still provide a solid workout.
- Get involved. Sure, it’s great to cheer your kids from the sidelines and bring orange slices for the team, but it’s better if you get out there and run with them. Coaches are always looking for more hands on the field (or in the dug-out). Unable to attend practice? Set up time to shoot hoops or kick around a soccer ball on the weekend. Even participating activities like yoga can be a fun and unique experience. Try different things to see what piques their interest.
- Head outdoors. Fall can make you feel like the outdoors is out of the question, given homework and an earlier sunset. But don’t give up on fresh-air activities yet! Get your kids outside with activities like hiking, bike riding and rollerblading. Even apple picking can offer fitness benefits when you incorporate a heart-pumping nature walk into the fruit plucking.
- Consider active video games. Keeping screen time to a minimum is a solid goal, but instead of turning off the tube completely, consider using screens to pursue a healthy activity—something that gets kids off the couch. Interactive games including simulated golf, tennis or even dancing may be just the gateway your child needs to tackle more real-world physical pursuits.
Making fitness a family goal creates built-in accountability and friendly competition. Kids feel empowered because it’s not just you telling them to get moving; they can tell you it’s time for your family soccer game or that you’re ahead of them on this week’s walking steps. The key, of course, is setting aside time to stay active and engaged as a family.
Draw up a schedule and put it on a whiteboard, create a Google calendar for the whole family so everyone knows what’s expected, or take advantage of fitness apps, like MyFitnessPal, so you can keep track of each other’s progress digitally. Then grab your gang and get moving!
Read more fitness advice in our MoveWell sections.