Busy parents know that if you want to stay physically fit, you'll have to get creative to find the time to make it happen. Youngsters tend to upend carefully established routines, and when you're busy raising a family, maintaining that precious exercise regimen can seem nearly impossible.
Unless there's a way to combine activities...
Bingo! Instead of arranging your schedule to play with the kids for a while and then work out, try blending the activities. Exercise with kids can be so fun you won't even realize you're burning calories. Here's how to get started.
Set a Standard
Before starting any workout regimen (even a light-hearted family-friendly one) talk to your family physician to ensure you and your little ones are cleared for these common exercises. Remember, if you or your kids experience pain or discomfort while being active, stop your game and rest.
Another tip is to model the active lifestyle you would like your children to adopt. In other words, don't plan to go from zero exercising to daily workouts together without a struggle. Start with one of these ideas at a time, then add another and another until you achieve your optimum collective activity level.
Ideas for Fun Exercise with Kids
Ready to turn play into sweat? According to the Centers for Disease Control, kids need more physical activity than most parents expect.
So not only will you benefit, high intensity play will also contribute to your kids' overall well-being. Check out these creative ways to combine fun family time with your regular workout.
Challenge youngsters to a spontaneous dance-off. If you can't make it to Zumba, you can still shake it at home with the kids! Crank up the music, and ditch the boring two-step for alternating fast lunges, high kicks, spins, rhythmic jumping jacks, and mountain climbers. After their initial shock, your kids will try to outdo you with even more wild, wacky antics. The bigger the movement, the higher the points. Young children won't need any more incentive than this, but for middle schoolers and preteens, have some sort of traveling trophy you can bequeath to the winner of each dance off.
Play good, old-fashioned tag. The aerobic exercise of a dance off is great, but to build balance and joint health, switch it up. The lurches, pivots, and twists and turns of freeze tag can be exactly what you need to change up your cardio routine. Unlike other games, this one's a crowd-pleaser for all ages.
Supercharge a basic obstacle course. Backyard or living room obstacle courses are an iconic childhood game. Simple stacked couch cushions become climb-and-balance towers, hula hoops can serve as tire runs, and masking tape is a great homemade substitute for a balance beam. The trick? To win, a parent must run the same course while holding another player piggyback-style.
Modify hide and seek. Get your isometrics in while playing hide and seek with kids! This idea may be the most challenging of all. Hide and seek is known for being a mindless activity for grownups, but if you combine it with static exercises like these, you'll be huffing and puffing while you wait to be found:
Choose a place behind a door where you can maintain a wall sit.
Opt for a hiding spot behind the couch where you can hold a side plank.
Hide yourself in a long closet behind a sliding door, where you can challenge yourself to a long hollow hold (Blueprint Fitness Atlanta demonstrates what that looks like).
Ditch dead weights in favor of live weights. On the days you'd rather tone or build muscle, consider a using your kids as weights. The U.S. Department of Defense has a whole web page dedicated to different upper body exercises you can do while your children provide the resistance. Some of their workout with toddler suggestions include:
Military seated press
Front "plate" raises
Babies and toddlers can afford you more reps of each exercise, while fewer repetitions with the weight of a preschooler or elementary school-aged child can increase your overall maximum strength, a fact explained by a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. So warm up your exercise with your littlest ones, and when you're ready to kick it up a notch, ask for an older volunteer.
Play, Sweat, or Both?
There are many ways to exercise with kids. All you need is a little creativity and the commitment to make it happen. As with every workout discipline, mental excuses will come up. Your family members should not be one of them.
So how do you work out with a toddler or child in tow? Share your ideas with other time-strapped parents by tweeting @TomsofMaine!
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Why It’s Good
Really, the only thing that feels better than the achievement of a regular workout is knowing you haven't neglected your family to take care of yourself. Combining exercise with daily playtime is easier than you'd think, and can deliver the benefits of physical activity with the goodness of playing together.