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Featured, Wellness

Get Fit With Your Kids

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:

  • Bat around a foam ball with paddles. The foam ball has less of a bounce, is easier to handle for smaller kids and doesn’t hurt on impact. You can do this on one or both sides of a tennis court or against a wall.
    Stuck indoors? Clear out some furniture and play a rousing game of balloon tennis with your hands. This gets everyone’s arms moving while keeping the balloon from hitting the ground.
  • Remember Hippity Hops? They still make them in adult and child sizes. “It’s so much fun. It’s fun and it is exhilarating, cardiovascular-wise,” Sickel says.
  • Lace up some skates and hit the rink. Chances are, even if you haven’t been roller-skating or ice-skating in years, your muscle memory will kick in. Never skated? You and the kids can sign up for a beginners’ class and be gliding along in no time.
  • Take a nature hike and bring a notebook to draw and write down observations. When kids are looking for specific things, such as a species of birds, trees and flowers, they’re less likely to notice how much they’re walking.
  • Everyone can do yoga. If you’re worried about attention spans, a video at home is perfectly okay.
  • Crank the tunes and have a family dance party, or get a Zumba video going for added toning and strength. Reward especially creative moves and routines, or make your own video kids will want to watch afterward.
  • Hot summer day? A rousing game of water-gun tag is fun and refreshing for everyone.

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.

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