From finding fun exercises disguised as play to breaking a sweat and exercising with your kids, discover 10 ways to trick your family into exercising.
1. Disguise children’s exercise as play
Not all forms of exercise for children have to involve a gym and a personal trainer.
“Kids are a lot like adults. If we find activities that they are interested in and people they love to be around, fitness is very easy,” suggests Dr. Jeffrey Cumro of Better Life Chiropractic and Wellness.
Instead of setting time aside for a formal fitness routine, play Frisbee, go bowling or engage in a game of tag. Just be sure not to let the cat out of the bag — let kids think they’re just having fun despite the fact that you’re actually sneaking in exercise as play.
2. Make fitness a family affair
It’s easy to preach the importance of exercise to kids, but if you really want to see results, your best tactic is to lead by example.
“The best way to get children motivated to exercise is twofold. First, make sure that you as a parent take time to exercise. Then, also set aside time to exercise together as a family,” suggests Abbie Davies of My First Yoga, LLC. “Children learn by example, and who better to learn from than their parents, whom they look up to so much?”
3. Choose video games wisely
You don’t have to ban screen time just to get your kids off their rumps. Games for preschoolers like Nickelodeon Fit (Nick Shop, $27) focus on exercises for kids. Or, try games like Just Dance 3 (Amazon, $20), which tracks your “just sweat” points for family fitness fun.
4. Opt for outdoor fun
Instead of activities like going to the movies, which involve lots of sitting around, select activities that involve a lot of physical involvement and that help you sneak in family fitness. Going to destinations such as Disneyland, going horseback riding or even going for a dip in the swimming pool will help your children be active without your having to cram the message of exercise down their throats.
5. Get competitive juices flowing
There’s something about a little friendly competition that makes exercise for children more of a challenge than a chore.
“Setting up weekend obstacle courses at neighbors’ houses is a great way to encourage exercise and healthy competition,” recommends Craig Ramsay, a certified personal trainer and co-trainer on Bravo’s Thintervention with Jackie Warner.
“At the end of a specific time period (say, eight weeks), each kid gets a fitness statue or certificate of completion for participating,” Ramsay says.
6. Reward kids for getting moving
Whether you strap an activity tracker onto your teen, reward him with codes for video games or offer incentives like screen time for taking time for fitness, a kid is less likely to resist exercise when there’s something tangible in it for him. Set goals and offer different levels of prizes to let him know he is in charge of his own results.
“At the moment, statistics on childhood obesity show that one in five children is diagnosed with obesity — and this trend is increasing, regardless of ethnicity or social status,” shares seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller.
“Obese youth are more likely than youth of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore, they’re more at risk for associated adult health problems.”
7. Document the fun
Brainstorm a list of all the different sports, games and activities that your kids would like to try, suggests Peggy Hall, a wellness expert and published author. Take those ideas and then plan out a calendar filled with new activities to try each week or once a month.
“Take pictures or have the kids take pictures or draw pictures of the things they enjoyed the most,” she says. “They could even write stories about the activities, or depending on their ages, they could research different athletes who have done the sports.”
You can also create a family scrapbook of all the crazy and fun activities your family tried through the year.
8. Tackle chores
Get the whole family involved in physical activity by tackling those pesky household chores. By simply sweeping the carpet or mopping the floors for an hour, you can burn nearly 100 calories, says Alejandro Chabán, a certified nutrition consultant and founder of Yes You Can! Diet Plan. Washing dishes while standing will burn 47 calories an hour, while scrubbing floors, the bathroom and the bathtub on your hands and knees will burn another 102 calories.
9. Tour the parks
Does your community have several parks? Plan a trip each week to a different park while making time to play on the swings, throw around a football and start a pickup game of basketball.
“Kids love doing things with their parents, so go have fun while your family gets healthy, fit and vibrant,” says John Rowley, a certified personal trainer and health-and-wellness expert. “It will do you all good.”
10. Take advantage of community resources
Your community is one of the best places to look for activities that involve physical activity. Whether it’s a trip to the zoo, hitting the amusement park or taking a walk on the beach, each of these activities involves an extensive amount of walking. While it’s not always possible to do one of these activities each week, it may be easier to look for weekend festivals, indoor museums, craft exhibitions or even tours of the city.
And while these 10 tricks for sneaking in exercise can be a big help now, you should set a goal to ultimately send your brood the message that exercises for children can be fun.