Staying fit together as a family takes strategy. And here are three basic principles for tactically integrating family fitness into your family’s life.
I like to use the acronym F.I.T.
“F” stands for fun.
Getting kids involved requires that you keep things fun. Make workouts into games. Make games into workouts. As you’ll notice when you go through the suggestions on this website, many of them are based on games kids already like to play.
But there’s more to this fun thing than just getting the kids involved. We adults could learn a few lessons from the young ones. Kids are naturally active because they enjoy the movement. They giggle when you chase them and they can’t stop grinning in a good wrestling match.
Adults too often neglect their fitness goals because they get bored, or it just feels too onerous, too hard.
When you keep the fun in for the kids, you also benefit. You enjoy what you’re doing to stay fit. And truth is, you’ll hardly notice the time and effort it takes the more fun is in the mix.
“I” stands for increments, itty bits, and integration.
Break it up, break it down. We tend to think about taking an hour and going to the gym or taking a long run in the morning. That’s not often feasible with a family schedule.
But who says you need a whole hour in one chunk to get fit. Plenty of research has demonstrated that smaller bursts of activity can be more effective in getting you fit than long slogs. It may mean playing a quick game of tag before dinner. Or a quick wrestlemania on a Sunday morning.
It may be that you do a few curls while watching tv to supplement your family activity. Or get on the treadmill to do sprint intervals for 15 minutes while the baby’s napping. Or having a few exercises you can do just about anywhere, while you’re watching a kids’ concert in the park or waiting to meet with your child’s teacher.
Break fitness into small manageable chunks.
But also integrate activity into your overall lifestyle. Take the Mayo Clinic’s tips for bringing what they call N.E.A.T. exercise into your life and find little ways to make everyday living more active.
“T” stands for together.
This is the most fundamental part of family fitness. Rather than finding a gym with childcare or shepherding your kids off to recreational soccer while you stand on the sidelines, find more ways to do these things together.
Certainly, you may find you need to supplement your family activity with little bits of extra individual workouts here and there. But it can be a whole lot less time away from family time if you’ve done more of your working out with your family.
The rewards for exercising together are clearly big in making your life more sane and your waist smaller. But the rewards go deeper. First off, you’ll be raising your kids to think of activity as a fun family activity, as something that is an essential part of their life. This will keep them healthy long after they’ve left you to forge on on their own.
But all kinds of family bonds are created in this activity. Not only are you having fun together and sharing time together, but you’re also sharing experiences that can be pivotal.
You will all be there when your son is learning about good sportsmanship and losing.
You will all be there when Dad does that hilarious face plant on the ski slope.
You will all be there when your daughter has to struggle with her inner desire to quit and pushes a little harder through a challenge.
The kids will see Mom trying to learn how to juggle a soccer ball and have that delightful experience of teaching their parents.