You know how it goes: You vow to work out and finally get fit, but then family obligations, a busy schedule and good old-fashioned parental guilt get in the way. How can you go to the gym in good conscience when you could be spending that time with your kids? Well, when you work out with your kids, you can kiss your guilt goodbye. You’ll be more likely to get in shape, and you’ll get the chance to bond with your brood at the same time. Everybody wins!
The key to working out with your family, says personal trainer Nicole Clancy, is to make it fun. “Making exercise feel like playtime or recess encourages activity,” she says. “For example, head to a local park and play on the equipment, or go to the local school yard and kick around the soccer ball or shoot hoops!” To add to the excitement, she suggests making it a social occasion. “Inviting other pals or neighbors to join your bike ride will allow everyone in the family to catch up with friends while getting fit at the same time,” she continues.
Other activities ideal for family fitness include basic walking, speed walking, biking, hiking and calisthenics (such as push-ups, curl-ups, lunges and squats), according to children’s health, fitness, and wellness specialist Len Saunders. “Even hobbies like swimming, inline skating, tennis or karate are all things that an entire family can participate in,” he says. “As long as the parents are having fun and being good role models, the kids will respond positively.”
Finding it hard to get started? Ease your way into an exercise routine by doing at least one physical activity together each week. “Make it a family tradition,” advises certified personal trainer Karen Jashinsky. “It can be a Sunday hike or a walk to and from brunch. You could even make shopping activities more fun and active by adding some extra walking. Park the car farther away from the store, take the stairs instead of escalators, or create fun challenges like seeing who can run up the stairs the fastest.”
Is your family full of television junkies? Try bouncing on fitness balls while you watch your favorite shows to burn extra calories and strengthen your core. During ad breaks, “commercial-cize,” says Saunders. “Most families watch between two and four hours of TV each night, which is a sedentary activity,” he says. “If you commit to exercise during each commercial break, those minutes of fitness will really add up!”
The physical benefits of family fitness are tremendous, but so are the emotional ones! “Exercising as a family provides quality time for family members to check in with one another, to communicate and connect outside of the confines of a daily hustle-and-bustle schedule,” says Clancy. “It can be a wonderful way to build confidence, as members can encourage one another. Group exercise also provides accountability to stick with it and sets a healthy example for younger children.”
To mix things up, let your kids choose what activity you partake in at least every other time. That might mean hitting the skate park or riding scooters — but try to keep an open mind. “I’ve found that kids who have very active parents sometimes end up rebelling against fitness or being discouraged that they can’t live up to their parents’ standards,” explains Jashinsky. “The more you can let your child find his or her ‘thing’ and gain confidence in that independently of your own fitness regimen, the more likely you are to have a kid that’s excited to pursue fitness. As a parent, you now have the ability to learn or let your kids show you what they learned, rather than the other way around.”
As your children get older, they may be more and more enthusiastic about sharing this experience with you — and likely more excited about pursuing fitness and exercise on the whole.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.