The summer is a great time to prioritize family fitness. With more hours in the day and no evening schoolwork, the whole family can stay active together. Despite this extra time and warmer weather, it can still feel impossible to motivate your kids to get up and move. That’s where the keys to family fitness success come into play.
When you choose activities as a group, keep it less structured, and empower your kids to make healthy choices for themselves, you’ll find that everyone is excited to make more time for fitness. Use the following ideas to make this summer your most active one yet!
#1 – Do It Together
Family fitness is not about the “divide and conquer” mentality. You aren’t friends in a diet group, with your own training programs and nutrition plans. Family fitness is about moving your bodies together — taking advantage of this time as a unit, while staying active all summer long.
It doesn’t mean you can’t work out alone; if you like to lift weights or have your own gym routine, you can stick with that, but making time to be active as a family is key. Not only will it give you more time together, but it will also allow you to be a fitness role model for your kids, which is important for their growth. Health.gov suggests:
If children see their parents exercising regularly, they are also more likely to accept it as a normal part of their own lives. They might look forward to exercising rather than perceiving it as some sort of punishment. If parents commit to becoming healthier themselves — making better nutrition choices and performing regular physical activity — their children are much more likely to emulate these behaviors.
Make time to introduce your kids to the fitness you love, in addition to other group activities like bike riding, and bring in props they’ll have fun with too. For example, this 30-minute playground workout is perfect to do as a family, complete with running up the slide and making your way across the monkey bars.
When working out at home, bring out props like yoga balls, medicine balls, and a jump rope. Kids will love throwing around the yoga and medicine balls and jump roping to their heart’s content, while you do your usual strength routine. Even better: Bring the workout into your backyard so everyone can breathe in the fresh summer air between sets.
#2 – Eat Healthy as a Household
Mealtime is about more than simply eating. It’s a chance to put something healthy in your body, while role-modeling good eating habits for your kids. But don’t just eat in the same room, at the same time — make healthy eating a household focus, which means choosing meals together, picking out healthy ingredients as a family, and then cooking with a little help from everyone.
As you consider the many ways to eat healthy as a household, keep these ideas and tips in mind:
- Choose a variety of foods – Show your kids how many healthy options there are to choose from. “Offering a variety of foods helps children get the nutrients they need from every food group. They will also be more likely to try new foods and to like more foods,” the USDA says.
- Make protein the star – Both you and your growing kids need protein. Make sure everyone in the family has protein at every meal, including breakfast. If you don’t have time to cook a full meal one morning, have protein shakes together instead. Before choosing protein powder for your little ones, check out Protein Powder for Kids: A Complete Guide.
- Prioritize veggies over fruit – While fruit is important for everyone’s diet, it still contains sugar. An overabundance of sugar is never good for the body, regardless of where it comes from. Find different ways to cook veggies that make them more appealing to your children. Try sautéing veggies with a healthy sauce or roasting them with olive oil and spices. You can also sneak them into their smoothie, and they won’t even know.
- Let the kids choose – Empower your little ones to choose fun healthy foods at the grocery store. While there needs to be some semblance of planning to make your life less hectic, start a tradition of choosing one new fruit or vegetable each week. They’ll be excited to look for fun new foods, and, better yet — even more excited to try it.
#3 – Make It Fun
Fitness should be fun, both for adults and kids. Exercise only feels like a chore if you were taught to think that way. You have a chance to show your kids that staying healthy and active is a fun part of life, not another thing they have to do.
For example, appeal to their love of friendly competition by signing up for a race. Kids have a way of making running look so effortless because for them, it is. Their young energy carries them back and forth across the lawn 15 times before they sit down to take a breath.
Joey Gonzalez, CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp, told Well and Good about how his young daughter and her friends love racing:
… our daughter Frankie loves races. We’ll race her over and over (and over) again. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, how long will this last?’ But we recently had a party with kids of all ages, and they started racing from one side of our yard to the next—for hours. We had elimination races, group races, relay races, and more. The kids saw that it’s fun to use your own body to move and compete with somebody next to you.
If your kid isn’t into racing, there are dozens of other fun workout ideas you can use to keep things fresh and exciting.
Here are several ideas to try:
- Rock climbing
- Hula hooping
- Parent-child yoga
- Obstacle or relay races
- Family or neighborhood wiffle ball
- Bike rides
#4 – Stick to a (Loose) Schedule
Creating a schedule is less about the schedule and more about accountability. Staying fit as a family is a great way to encourage routine during the summer months, while showing children how to stay accountable to themselves.
However, if the schedule is too strict — “You need to work out for one hour each day, seven days a week” — it takes all the fun out of it. Fitness quickly becomes another chore, which is the quickest way to keep kids from loving it. Instead, create a loose schedule together as a family.
A more effective schedule may look something like this:
- We’ll find one way to move our bodies together every day, whether it’s a walk or a workout.
- We’ll play until we’re all out of breath and ready to rest.
Notice the use of language like “play.” Gonzalez suggests making this language a habit: “The way you speak about fitness will shape the way your children do. So, along with ‘play,’ I use words such as healthy, movement, and activity. Those are much better for kids to hear than terms like skinny or fat. I also focus more on the mental and emotional benefits you get from exercise and physical activity.”
#5 – Take Turns Being in Charge
Just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you have to choose the family activity every day. Take turns being in charge, empowering your little ones to choose the form of fitness they love, whether that’s a game of tag in the backyard or a swinging competition at the park.
Example: Mom will choose the activity on Tuesday and Thursday, Dad will choose on Monday and Wednesday, Sister will choose on Friday and Sunday, and Brother will choose on Saturday.
Not only does this strategy empower your kids, but it also allows you to bring in other lessons, like compromise. Perhaps they would rather ride bikes than go for a hike, but when it’s Mom’s turn to decide, they have to find the positive in something they don’t want to do.
Get Fit as a Family This Summer
The summer is a perfect time to create a healthier lifestyle as a family. Not only will your kids motivate you to move your own body more, but you’ll also demonstrate a healthy lifestyle, which will make them more likely to adopt it for the rest of their lives. Use these tips to introduce accountability and new ways to stay active, while making fitness fun for everyone in the family!
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, and the owner of her personal training business, Honest Body Fitness in San Diego. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, and others. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips, and more!