It’s hard enough to find time to exercise on your own, but when the kids are around, your routine can simply vaporize.
Marc Sickel, founder of Fitness for Health, a pediatric therapeutic exercise center in Rockville, Maryland, says there are a couple of options—either work out when the kids are asleep, or team up and find something that’s fun for everyone. Just saying, “Let’s go for a run” won’t cut it for most children. “It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but for a lot of kids that’s not exciting,” Marc says.
Even adding a game of “I Spy” or a scavenger hunt to a regular walk (“Who can find a heart-shaped rock? Who can find a red leaf?”) will help younger kids get out and moving with you. You can also up the ante by hiding items in a yard, a park or field and timing how quickly they can all be found, creating a situation where kids (and you) will run around like crazy.
Technology can make things a little easier and fun. If you can get everyone a Fitbit or inexpensive pedometer, you can create group goals for how many steps to take over a period of time and track it on a map (“We’ve taken enough steps together to walk to New Jersey!”). Up the motivation with a reward the whole family can enjoy, like a trip to the beach, an amusement park or a vacation.
Marc advises families to be realistic with goal-setting. “You always want to make it feel that they’re successful. I’m a big believer in saying success builds success,” he explains.
Other ideas to build fun and movement into your day include:
And believe it or not, bribery is a viable option. Marc says he likens getting paid per lap or per workout to getting a bonus at work. “You and I, we’re adults so we’re motivated. We know that fitness is really important to our overall well-being, but if you think about it, it’s not on top of the list for a child.”
Bottom line: Whatever it takes to create positive associations with exercise for kids when they’re young will serve them well throughout their lives.