1. Go for pre- or post-dinner walks
Whether you head into town or just cruise the neighbourhood, building a walk into your daily schedule ensures that it won't get put off. Take a pram with toddlers and young kids, so that they can alternate time in and out of the stroller. Evening walks are a good time for busy families. To make walking more enticing, makes a sport of it. Look for milestones and landmarks along the way, giving the kids something to look forward to.
2. Sneak workouts into other activities
Have your toddler walk instead of riding in the shopping trolley at the supermarket, and take the stairs or walk up the escalator whenever possible. Depending on how far you live from school and your workload, another alternative is to drive your kids halfway to school, then park the car and get out and walk the rest of the way with them. Doing this one or two mornings a week is a great way to incorporate exercise into your child’s routine.
3. Turn TV commercials into fitness breaks
Invent silly names for simple exercises like squats, push-ups, and sit-ups, and then do them together until the show comes back on. For example, call them “princess sit-ups” or “Bob the Builder muscle builders”, which will no doubt go down well with the kids. You can also play "coach," in which you take turns "ordering" each other to "drop and give me five," or "follow the leader," in which one person leads the others in fun, simple moves like clapping, wiggling, and marching.
4. Have a weekly sports night
Every Wednesday, for example, get everyone up and moving. One game to play is the fit-deck shuffle. Create a series of playing cards featuring family-friendly exercises, such as bear-crawling or ape-walking. Each family member picks a card and performs the exercise pictured until all the cards have been dealt. You can buy a ready-made set of exercise cards from various retailers.
5. Walk or run for charity
Model the value of exercise - and of giving back to society - by teaming up with your children for a fundraising event or race. Look for local fun runs and sign up the whole family. I recently did this with my partner at two boys in the Sydney Family Fun Run. It got us all out and active early on a Sunday monring, and my kids were so proud of themselves managing to run the whole way.
6. Make a game out of household chores
Make chores such as sweeping the floor fun for kids by pretending that dust creatures are invading your house and it's up to Captain [insert child's name] to save the day by capturing them with his broom. Make believe they’re one of the Rescue Heroes, and have them save their teddy bears from the slimy pit of the floor by putting them safely in their toy chest. Alternatively, turn folding the laundry into a guessing game. After correctly identifying who owns what piece of clothing, get your kids to help fold them.
7. Put kids to work in the yard
My kids are generally much happier to help in the garden than in the house. Get kids involved in sweeping leaves, taking out bins, sorting the recycling and washing the car.
8. Team up for gardening
Kids are great at digging up dirt, so let them turn over the soil and help you plant new bulbs. Research shows that gardening is as good as weight training when it comes to preventing osteoporosis, and if you're planting vegetables, it can make them more appetising to kids. Alternatively, kids can help water the plants. In the summer, set up a sprinkler to water the lawn and challenge kids to duck the droplets.
9. Walk the dog
Research from the US shows that dog-owners had more fun losing weight and were able to keep it off longer than non-pup-owners. If you don’t have a pooch, perhaps take the kids for a walk to the park to look for breeds of dog they like – anything to get them up and moving.
10. Crank up the music and boogie down
Hold disco nights with the kids. Move the furniture aside, fill the CD player with dance tunes, and lets the kids take turns using a flashlight as a strobe light. Home dance-athons are a great way to keep the kids entertained and moving. We have even been known to hold Sunday night interpretative dance family sessions - not for public viewing!
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