Family Fitness: Resolve to Get Your Kids Moving

by Ann Douglas

You've bought your kids toboggans, hockey sticks, and cross-country skis. You've signed them up for indoor soccer, swimming lessons, and gymnastics classes. You've told them all about the benefits of physical fitness. In fact, you've done everything possible to encourage your kids to put down the TV remote and get physically active. Or have you?

Most fitness experts agree that there's a world of difference between telling kids about the benefits of being physically active and showing them that fitness is a priority in your own life. If you're not physically active yourself, your words are likely to lose their impact. Bottom line? You have to be prepared to walk the talk.

Getting started

You don't have to sign your kids up for boot camp in order to do your parental duty, however. In fact, that's one sure way to doom your family fitness program to failure! A far better approach is to come up with a list of different fitness activities that your family could enjoy together and to find ways to work fitness into your schedules on a regular basis. (The experts agree that you should be exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes at a time at least three times each week.)

Here are some tips on becoming a more active family:

Make it fun. As with anything else in life, variety is the key to making your family fitness program enjoyable. Exercising to the same Tae Bo tape day after day isn't likely to hold an eight-year-old's attention, but weekly trips to the local swimming pool, rollerblading arena, and indoor baseball diamond likely will.

Head for the park. What do you get when you combine a park and a van full of people? A terrific workout, that's what! Who says fitness has to be boring -- or super-serious? Throw around a Frisbee (yes, even in January!) Play a game of tag. As long as you're moving your bodies vigorously enough to get your hearts beating faster, you're exercising.

Join a club. Think about joining a volkssport club. Volkssport clubs are walking clubs designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages, explains Liz Neporent, co-author of Fitness for Dummies. "They are a great way to meet other families -- something that adds to the fun of being active."

Go for a walk indoors. Don't skip your walk just because the weather's bad outside. Take your family fitness program indoors! You can either walk around your local mall or head for some spot that's a little more inspiring: even strolling through a museum can be a fitness activity, according to Neporent. It doesn't matter what you're doing while you're walking, as long as you're moving quickly enough to get some benefits out of your workout.

Hit the pool. Few exercises will give you as good a workout as swimming -- and you don't just have to swim lengths. Jyl Steinback -- author of The Fat Free Cookbook From Around the World and the mother of two children, ages 13 and 5 -- says that water adds a dimension of fun to a workout that can't be found on dry land: "We play water volleyball, underwater tag, basketball, and we have swimming races."

While you may find it difficult to schedule time for family fitness initially, it won't be long before that Saturday morning trip to the swimming pool or that Tuesday evening walk around the block becomes second nature. And that, according to the experts, is when you'll really begin to reap the benefits of your family's commitment to healthier living, both body and soul.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas.Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.