Making time for working out when you have kids at home can be tough.  Many of us already have a hard time making it a priority to hit the gym ourselves. So how do we encourage our kids to be active with us? Two words: Family fitness.

Kids attitudes and actions towards exercise are shaped by what we do as parents. It’s no surprise kids model their behaviors after our behavior. If we want our kids to be active, we need to be good role models and get off our butts and show them that we exercise.

Kids who have families that are more active and encourage working out are more likely to be fit as an adult.

The Benefits of Family Fitness for Kids 

Parents should encourage their kids to get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. They should do a variety of activities so that they can work on, and improve, all elements of fitness: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

But remember, the motivation behind getting your children fit isn’t about them competing in the next Olympics or getting recruited to college. Being fit is about being able to take on whatever the world may throw at you. Oh, did I mention research shows that kids might actually get smarter just from exercising?

Working out with your kids can help them take on daily living activities safely and effectively. Family fitness doesn’t have to be time-consuming, costly, or complex if you are strategic about your clan’s approach to fitness conditioning.

Strategies for working out as a family

New to family sweat sessions? First try taking family walks.  Walking after any meal is good for digestion, weight loss, and sound sleep. Just taking a walk  for thirty minutes after a dinner, or walking the dog with your kids, is a good way for children to not be intimidated with physical activity. It’s good to ease into working out as a family by choosing activities that don’t have parameters for performance.

No gym? No problem – get outside.  When it comes to family workouts,  you don’t need a trainer, gym, pool, or massive backyard – especially in the summertime.  If you have a driveway or sidewalk, or access to a small playground, park, or public pool, you are good to go. Let’s Move! is a great resource to find out where to go and what to do for outdoor family workouts.

Make it  a family activity.  A family that plays together, stays together. Approach family workouts as more of a family activity than hour-long  boot camp session.  Find activities that everyone in the family would enjoy participating in. Need a little inspiration? Read up on ideas for family fitness available in both Spanish and English.

Make it routine.  When it comes to building healthy fitness habits, everyone responds well to routine and structure. In order to see improvements in strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility, it’s important to make working out routine. Work with your kids to develop a schedule that blocks out a chunk of time for physical activity each day. Designate certain days to try out one of the activities they suggested.

Ask for input and mix it up. During a family meal, ask your children which physical family activities they would like to do. Studies show that children who believe they are competent and have the knowledge to be physically active are more likely to be active. You may be impressed with fun and creative workout out ideas your kids come up with for breaking a sweat!

Invite friends to family fitness. Family workouts don’t need to be limited to just yourself and your kids. While younger kids may be satisfied to hang out with their parents, teens may enjoy physical activity more if they’re doing it with their friends. As well, working out with friends and family helps teens deal with stress.  Encourage your kids to invite their friends to a family yoga session, game of horse, or hike. This also allows for more activities and games that require more people, like a game of pickup basketball or soccer.

Blend screentime with workouts by Exergaming. Many game consoles these days offer the chance to move along with friends and family. Exergaming is a term used for video games that are also a form of exercise. You can even make it a friendly competition – be it dancing, boxing, bowling. The winner gets to decide what the next family workout will be!

Make household chores a fun game. You can turn your household chores into an active family game. Throwing on some music and trying to complete tasks like folding laundry or cleaning dishes by the end of a song or CD can make the time fly by. Find a way to keep score with sticky notes or a chore chart if your children respond well to competitive motivation.

The Takeaway: Family Fitness Builds Trust

I cannot stress enough how essential it is to instill the desire to be active in your kids. But its not just about teaching them to live active and healthy lifestyles when they grow up. Planned family fitness is a great way to build trust and respect between yourself and your kids. Cultivating positive memories and habits through workouts will make them more likely  to seek out advice from you in the future.