Parenting is a full time job. It’s no wonder many of us have trouble finding time to take care of ourselves and fit fitness into our lives. But in a world where childhood obesity is a national threat and our kids are inundated with technology that makes sitting still all day seem fun, fitness is a crucial life skill we need to be teaching our children. And children learn best by mimicking their parents’ behavior. As a trainer and mom of three teens, I know these ideas for parents of kids in specific age groups make it easier to add more movement and fitness into your family life and your own busy schedule.
If your child is an infant or toddler
- Get your child dancing. Small children often love to dance. They are so uninhibited and love to get their bodies moving. Put on your favorite music and dance along with them. I guarantee you’ll get some giggles out of it and both you and your child will get your hearts pumping.
- Do lunges while your toddler trikes! Take your toddler for a trike ride around the block and — since toddlers don’t pedal very fast — walk alongside him/her doing lunges. Don’t forget a helmet for your little one!
- Do exercises alongside your child in the family room while they get some playtime. If you have an exercise cord kit, you can get an entire strength training routine in while your little one plays with his/her toys.
- If there is a safe path, walk to your errands pushing your son/daughter in a stroller. You’ll get some exercise and at the same time knock some items off that endless to-do list. And your child will get some fresh air and enjoy the scenery.
- Check out a mommy-and-me yoga or fitness class at a gym or yoga studio, or do a kids’ yoga or family yoga DVD together at home.
If your child is school age
- Find a track or walking path near your children’s extracurricular activities. Keep a pair of gym shoes in the car so instead of sitting in the bleachers at every sports practice or waiting for a lesson to be done, you can grab a half-hour walk or run.
- Get outside with your kids and play their favorite sports. Kids love to have their parents’ attention and what better way to get it than through an activity they love. Play a game of pick-up basketball or get over to the tennis court and hit some balls with them. This is a great way to spend some quality time with your kids and be fit.
- Take a penny hike. This is a twist on the traditional after-dinner walk. Grab a penny and at each corner or crossroads in the neighborhood, flip the coin deciding if it’s heads you’ll go one way and tails you’ll go the other way. Kids love the mystery of finding out which way you’ll end up going. Of course, you’ll have to find your way home eventually! (This was a family tradition when I was little!)
- Involve your youngster in your yard work and gardening. Weeding, planting, sweeping … these are all activities that use muscle groups and allow your child to take part in one of your hobbies.
If your child is a teenager
- Plan a fitness vacation with your teenager. There are tons of great alternatives to a traditional “sit on the beach” vacation. Look for walking tours, rafting trips, skiing adventures, bike trails … the opportunities are endless. Or plan a trip to your favorite city and share the city with your teenager by walking from site to site.
- Train for a race with your teenager. Whether it is running, walking, biking … this is a way to share a common goal with your teenager while emphasizing the fun of exercise. If there are no races coming up, look for a parent/child tournament in your area doing an activity your child enjoys. A father/son golf tournament, mother/daughter doubles tennis … you get the idea.
- Again, find a track near your child’s extracurriculars where you can sneak in a power walk or run. I often find myself waiting for a game to start or a lesson to be over. These are perfect times to get moving.
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