Starting a Family Fitness Program

Make Physical Activity a Way to Spend Time Together

A family fitness program can be a great way to get the family together while also getting healthier. The world has changed a lot in the last decade or two. Rather than shooting hoops in the driveway, kids are sitting on the couch playing basketball online. 

Playgrounds are empty, but Facebook statuses are updated hourly. There is no need to ride your bike to your friend's house when you can just chat with them on FaceTime or send them a text. Social interaction has become 'virtual' and a sedentary lifestyle has resulted. 

Even when children are part of organized sports, they are usually highly competitive leagues that require hours of driving, early morning practices, and pressure to perform. In other words, exercising has lost its appeal. It's just not fun anymore. But, it really is very easy to break the cycle and make a change. It doesn't have to be complicated. When it comes to health and fitness, little things can make a big difference.

Creating a Fun Family Fitness Program

The commitment to become more active as a family doesn't mean you have to sign up for the next 5K marathon. Things like raking leaves, washing the car in the driveway, or going for a walk after dinner will benefit your health as well as your relationships.

Do you agree that it's time to bring the enjoyment back into exercising, to make family time fun, and to put an importance on health and fitness? Have you been avoiding making the necessary changes because it just seems so overwhelming?

Admittedly, you may have a hard time pulling your kids away from their video games, but once you do, the benefits of an active family fitness program are worth it! And, coming up with fun, health-focused activities is easier than you may think.

tennis as a family fitness program

Family Fitness Program Benefits

  • Health and Manage Weight. This is the obvious one. More and more people have inactive jobs and/or hobbies so exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

  • Family Time. Whether it is due to work or busy schedules, many parents say they have very little time to spend with their children. And, when it comes to exercise, a lot of adults try to squeeze in a trip to the gym on the way home from work or use the treadmill for half an hour between commitments. 

    Well, the great thing about a family fitness program is that you can get in your workout and spend time together. If you are going to exercise anyway, why not make it about family bonding. It's better for your health than watching television, and unlike TV, most physical activities encourage conversation.
  • Set An Example. You can tell your kids that they should eat healthier and be more active, but they are less likely to listen unless you are practicing what you preach. Most parenting experts say that children learn best by example, so when you plan activities to do together as a family you are showing your kids that you don't just believe it, but you are also willing to do it. That can go a long way toward the development of good habits.

  • Establish Healthy Habits. With so many people focused on social networking, gaming, and television, sedentary lifestyles have become a habit. And, the best way to break a habit is to change it. If ice skating, playing catch in the backyard, or going for a walk becomes part of your regular exercise plan, you will be working toward establishing healthy, lifelong habits that will benefit you and your children for years to come. Turning the television off might not be easy at first, but eventually, your family will thank you!

  • Reduce Stress. It is a well-known fact that regular exercise reduces stress. But what may be surprising is that, according to new studies, children are experiencing higher levels of stress than ever before. In fact, some research shows that teens are more stressed than most adults. Social media has increased the pressure placed on kids, life has become more competitive, and they are being pushed to grow up before they even get a chance to enjoy childhood. It's never been more important to find ways for ourselves – and our children – to manage stress. 
  • Motivation. Once physical activity becomes part of your regular family fitness program, everyone will encourage each other to stay involved. Your kids might actually ask if you can all go outside and play ball, or they might issue a challenge to bike an extra mile or walk a few more blocks. Exercising together can be much more motivating than exercising alone.

  • Create Memories. If you think back to your childhood, your most prominent memories are not likely the times you spent watching television as a family. While there is a place for movie nights, the best memories are built on things like vacations, family bike trips, and visits to the zoo or the beach. 

    Raking leaves and then jumping in the piles, snowball fights after shoveling the driveway or an impromptu game of water tag are the kind of memories that are built by active families who enjoy doing things together.
  • Have Fun. Let's be honest – running on the treadmill is not always fun. Sometimes we have a hard time motivating ourselves to do it, so we can understand why our kids simply aren't interested. Some kids naturally enjoy physical activities, but obese children or those who gravitate to more sedentary hobbies do not think that exercise is fun.

    So, the only way you are going to encourage them to do it is by proving them wrong. For most people, exercising with others is more exciting and less boring. A little friendly competition, a little silliness, a little laughter, and a little extra motivation can make mundane cardio a lot of fun. The benefits of participating in physical activity together as a family are endless.

fbeach soccer as a amily fitness program

Family Fitness Program Tips

1. Start Slowly. If you tell everyone that they are going to be doing an hour long yoga program every night, they are likely to balk at the idea of a family fitness plan. Sometimes you need to be a little more subtle. Big changes can cause push back. Remember, little things can make a big difference.

Instead of driving to the ice cream parlour after dinner, ride your bikes or walk. That way, you aren't taking away the enjoyment of a treat, you are just making everyone work a little harder for it! As your family becomes more accustomed to physical activity, your options will broaden.

2.  Get Everyone Involved. It's hard to find activities that everyone likes, but people are more likely to get involved if they feel they have a say in the final decision. You might want to take turns choosing the activity so everyone get to do what they like best, or you may be able to combine activities such as biking to a swimming pool or walking to a library. There is no point in choosing something that your family doesn't enjoy doing together or no one will stick to the program.

3.  Make Exercise Fun. A family fitness program can be as structured or as flexible as you want. For example, you would have to make a commitment to a specific time and activity if you signed up for a martial arts class or decided to take dance lessons as a family.

But, if you want something a little more relaxed, you can vary your activities. You might decide to go for a bike ride one day and play soccer at the local park on the next day. Getting fit is about being more active, and that can be anything from an organized baseball game to washing the family car. If you make it fun and enjoyable, everyone will get fit without even realizing that they are actually exercising.

4.  Schedule Family Fitness Time. We all start things with good intentions but then life gets in the way and throws a wrench into our plans. Set aside time specifically for family activities and do your best to stick to a regular exercise plan. If you don't schedule it in, it probably won't happen.

5.  Keep Your Options Open. Have the equipment available for a lot of different activities, that way your family can choose whatever suits their mood on any given day. If you have baseballs, soccer balls, bikes, helmets, walking shoes, gardening tools, dance music, or whatever other items you can think of on hand, your options are endless and you are more likely to find something that will get everyone off the couch and moving in a positive direction.

6.  Turn Off the Television. With smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers it's becoming harder to control the amount of television and social media families watch. Whether you want to limit the number of hours that devices are used or simply have certain times of day when all electronics must be turned off, having a technology-free time will encourage more activity. After all, if your kids can't play video games from 4-6 pm anyway, they are more likely to participate in a family activity.

7.  Keep Healthy Snacks Handy. If little foxes spoil the vine then snack foods spoil a diet. It's the chips and candy and vending machine snacks that really pack on the pounds. A little nibble here, a little taste there, and before we know it, the scale is no longer our friend.

If you replace junk food with healthier options, you will feel less guilty about snacking and more confident that you are giving your children the nutrition they need. And, healthy snacks do not need to be tasteless. There are a lot of great recipes that will trick your family into thinking they are enjoying a treat when they are actually fuelling their body with essential vitamins and minerals. Click Here for more information on Healthy and Convenient Snacks.

Family Fitness Program Ideas

While there are literally hundreds of great ideas for starting a family fitness program, here are a few to get you going or help inspire your own creative thinking;

  • Rewards - Have family challenges with rewards. For example, everyone could wear pedometers and the person who accumulated the most steps by the end of the day wins the challenge.

  • 7 activities in 7 days - Set aside a week and challenge your family to think of a different physical activity for each day. Remember, it doesn't have to be anything formal or structured. Have a hula hoop contest on Monday, play frisbee at the park on Tuesday, go for a walk on Wednesday, go rollerblading on Thursday, go for a bike ride on Friday, shoot hoops in the driveway on Saturday, and play badminton in the backyard on Sunday.

    If seven days in a row is too much for your family, try “7 activities in 7 Saturdays” or something similar that fits your schedule. However you do it, it will get your family's creative juices flowing and keep exercising fun and exciting.

  • Keep Active - Plan family bike trips. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it. Challenge everyone to always use the stairs. Park far away from entrances and walk.Go to the beach or a public pool. Swimming is a great activity, but you can  make it more social by starting a game of water volleyball or marco polo.

  • Plan active family outings. Going to a zoo, an amusement park, or a hiking trail requires a lot of walking which will help improve everyone's fitness level. Take advantage of community events. Participate in free community ice skating, swimming, or tennis.

  • Gather your own food - Pick your own apples, strawberries, beans, cherries, or whatever your family likes. Not only will you get a good workout, but you will save money too. You might even want to make a contest out of it and give a reward to the person who picks the most.

Family Fitness Program

There are many more creative ideas on starting a family fitness program. The key is to find something that you will enjoy doing as a family and make getting active a priority. The benefits of a healthy active lifestyle as a family are plentiful. It will not only improve health and fitness, but it will also draw you closer together, strengthen the family bonds, and build memories that will last a lifetime.

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I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.

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