Like adults, the the road to kids’ health is paved with exercise and a healthy diet. The good news is, helping your kids stay fit can be made easier by redirecting their boundless energy with some of the following activities. While each of the ideas below may seem like a one time activity the first time you do it, as you discover the fitness routines your family enjoys most, you’ll be able to repeat family favorites to help develop a healthier overall lifestyle.
Regular Playground Visits – A park or playground in your neighborhood can be a great place to spend an afternoon. Many common playground structures help meet a growing body’s physical fitness needs. Monkey bars and fire fighter poles help strengthen the upper body. Running up stairs and ladders strengthens the legs. A few hours spent running and playing on every piece of equipment is a complete cardio workout without your child even noticing. It’s also a great place for them to meet other children, which will spark new, high-energy games. As long as they are safe and having fun, the playground is a recipe for a healthy, happy child. There are several ways parents can discover new playground areas, including the web database Kaboom and the app Playground Buddy.
Sports – Sporting activities like soccer, softball (or t-ball for the youngsters), and basketball are all great ways for your kids to stay fit while meeting new friends. Lots of towns have catalogues of community extracurriculars, so look through what’s available with your children. Remember, none of these sports have to be a lifetime commitment, so don’t be afraid to take a chance and try something new. Get started by checking for a YMCA or Little League league near you.
Gym Time – You might consider using a fitness center to keep your child active. A gym’s play areas can meet all the same requirements as a visit to the playground. Beyond that, many gyms offer youth fitness classes, in everything from gymnastics to dance to basic yoga. Fitness classes that are offered for kids are an opportunity to learn a new activity and play with other children. Plus, many insurance plans will rebate back part of the cost of a gym membership, so be sure to do your research ahead of time! Read about ten of the top fitness franchises for kids here.
Family Outings – Take the time to go out as a family and do something active. Hiking, canoeing, bike riding, or walking around the neighborhood are all fun activities for the family. Beyond that, they’re also good for the health of everyone involved. By being active with your children, you’ll be setting a good example for how to live a healthy, fit life. The U.S. National Park service maintains a searchable database of national parks, while your home state lists state parks in your area.
Swimming – Whether it is at a community pool or at the lake, swimming is a complete body workout. Dry land games like catch or tag take on a whole new level of fun and difficulty once you’re in a body of water. Plus, swimming is an important life skill for any kid to have. Children can start going to swim lessons with parents as early as 6 months old. Just remember to impress upon your kids the importance of swimming in a safe, supervised area, and the fitness portion of their outing will take care of itself. Try Map Muse to locate the nearest public pool.
When in doubt, walk! – You don’t always have to haul everyone around in a car. Designate a few key places in your neighborhood as “walking spots,” destinations where you and your kids can walk. Outings to the library, the park, ice cream shops, or the grocery store can all be made healthier by adding a physical component to them. By cutting out the driving portion of the trip, you’ll be keeping your kids active and teaching them that there’s more than one way to get where you’re going! Two great campaigns that seek to get everyone walking more are Everybody Walk and Step it Up.
Now that you are armed with all of these suggestions for fitness activities, your children should be well on their way to healthy, active lifestyles. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that fitness is easier when it is a “lifestyle.” So try to find little things that can be worked into your family’s day to day activities that will keep your kids fit. It’ll help make fitness seem natural and everyone in the family wins!
Photo Credit: Ruben Moreno