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8 Ideas to Get Your Family Engaged in Physical Activity

Activity and exercise are important for people of all ages. While adults should exercise for at least a few hours per week, though, it’s even more important for children to get up and get moving.

A young boy wearing sunglasses, a white shirt, and a cape raises his fist in the air, gazing into the sky.
Image credit: Pexels.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children 6-17 years old get at least 60 minutes of exercise per day, while children 2-5 years old should remain active throughout each day. This may not sound difficult, but in an era where children spend 5 to 7 hours per day in front of a screen, it can certainly be a challenge to break those sedentary habits and get active.

The problem is, if you don’t exercise regularly, it can have serious effects on your entire body. It can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, exacerbate cognitive decline, weaken your bones and joints, and even lead to obesity.

If you struggle to get your children up and moving on a regular basis, here are 10 suggestions for different ways to encourage them to embrace exercise with a newfound passion and excitement. Sweeten the deal for them with some of our treat recommendations, because after all you’ve got to eat, right?

Dance

Dancing is a tried-and-true method to get moving, and it involves a lot of cardiovascular activity. There are many different ways to get your kids in the groove such as:

• Signing them up for hip-hop or ballet classes.
• Finding a good salsa or square-dancing tutorial on YouTube.
• Hooking up a dance-based video, like Just Dance®, to gamify the experience.
• Turning on some music, cranking up the volume, and just going for it.

Just make sure that you take the time to stretch before you start in order to avoid any injuries.

Recommended Snack

If you’re going to dance on a regular basis, you can also make the experience that much better by providing a re-energizing snack, such as a gluten free pretzel, at the end of each session.

Hike

If your kids aren’t sprinters that like to toe-tap to a beat, one of the best ways to get them moving is by going on hikes. Hikes take up decent portions of time and can involve additional cardio activities like jumping and climbing.

You can also keep everyone occupied and learning simply through your surroundings by changing up your hiking routes on a regular basis.

If you do plan on hiking, it’s wise to put a little front-end effort into your preparations.

Recommended Breakfast

Since you’ll typically be away from home and even away from your car during a hike, make sure to eat a hearty breakfast with plenty of carbs and proteins before you leave. In addition, bring snacks and plenty of fluids to stay hydrated as you go along.

Swim

One of the easiest ways to fool children into accidentally participating in cardiovascular activities is through swimming. Most kids love to splash in cool water on a warm day and hardly even realize that they’re inadvertently getting a good workout at the same time.

Look for a public pool, lake, ocean, or even a water park where your kids can run around and get that blood pumping as they cool off. If you find that they’re disinterested in participating, you can also use a game like Marco Polo, tag, or create a whirlpool to get them interested in the activity.

If you do decide to go swimming, just make sure to bring floaties for the learners and sunscreen for everyone involved.

Recommended Treat

Is there anything better than a cool treat on a hot day? If you’ve got close access to a freezer strawberry yogurt popsicles are the way to go. If a freezer isn’t an option, Parmesan crackers can provide a nice crunch poolside.

Garden

Sometimes the best way to fit exercise into a busy schedule is by doubling it up with an existing chore. Case in point: gardening. If you’re a gardener, encourage your kids to come out and help in the garden along with you.

That isn’t to say that you should just stick them on weed duty until they get bored and want to leave. Actively encourage them to partake in all of the gardening activities. Hoeing, planting, weeding, and watering all require physical investments.

You can use the opportunity to teach them about growing and caring for plants and potentially sow the seeds for a life-long hobby in the process.

Recommended Treat

The best part of gardening? Once you begin to harvest your fruits and veggies you can use them to make a fruit salad or a tomato tart as a reward for all of their help.

Parkour

When you hear the term “parkour” it may invoke memories of extreme stunts and movie fight scenes. However, in reality, parkour really consists of any activity that involves quickly jumping, running, or climbing through an area.

This makes parkour an excellent activity that can entice children to get up and move around. Whether they’re using existing objects such as trees and a playground or you set up an obstacle course specifically to challenge them, parkour is a great way to turn exercise into rewarding fun.

When participating in parkour, always remember to have children wear protective gear such as goggles or kneepads whenever appropriate.

Recommended Treat

Jumping around can burn a lot of calories, and what better excuse is there than that for a little extra sweet treat like a homemade Twix?

Walk/Play With Your Pet

If you have a pet, especially a dog, you’re likely aware of the fact that they need exercise as well. Rather than heaping this onto your list of responsibilities you can actually use the presence of a pet in order to get two exercise activities done at the same time.

Use the need to walk a dog or play with your pet as a chance to encourage your children to be more active. For instance, help your kids take the dog on a hike, play fetch at a local park, or walk them around the block. As long as you’re supervising and watching out for hazards such as cars or other animals, walking and playing with a pet is an excellent way to encourage children to get exercise.

Recommended Treat

This one is for your walking companion (no, not the kids!). Homemade dog treats are easier than you may think and these ones only have 4 ingredients.

Join a Charity Walk

If you find that it’s difficult to motivate your child to simply go on a hike or walk the dog, you may be able to fire up their passion by joining a charity walk instead. By walking in order to draw attention to or raise funds for a cause, you can turn your child’s exercise into something with a deep purpose that they can invest themselves in and feel proud about.

If you choose to go this route, make sure to properly fuel yourself before embarking on the fundraiser.

Recommended Dinner and Breakfast

Eat a healthy dinner with complex carbs, such as gluten free pasta, the night before, and then fill up with a light breakfast of simple carbs such as a toasted piece of gluten free bread the morning of the walk.

Play Pretend

If your kids are on the younger side, there’s nothing like a trip outdoors to nudge their imagination. Playing pretend often involves a significant amount of cardiovascular exercise, too.

For instance, a child can pretend to hunt dinosaurs, be a superhero, or explore new lands, all of which typically involve extensive movement and activity. This combines healthy exercise with creativity, both of which are vital for healthy growth.

Recommended Treat

After the exciting imaginary adventures are complete, you can use a nice cold glass of watermelon lemonade to celebrate and maintain a positive association with outdoor play.

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