It’s no surprise that exercise can be a challenge for many people to do consistently, due to lack of time, discomfort/pain/injury, no motivation, fatigue and more. The bottom line is that some individuals simply find it difficult to prioritize regular workouts.
At the same time, most of us know about the many benefits of exercise to our health and fitness level. In the U.S., the high rates of obesity and related diseases like diabetes could be reduced if people were more active. This is true not only for adults, most of whom spend the majority of time in a sedentary job, but also for children, who now are consumed with screens (computers, tablets, phones, TV) rather than physical activity.
Recent data shows that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. (36.5%) are obese, and 17% of kids ages 2-19 are considered obese. Lack of exercise, combined with high-calorie (and potentially unhealthy) diets has created these alarming statistics.
One way to increase motivation to exercise is to find a partner who can work out with you and keep you accountable. Another option is to work out with your family. Although that may sound crazy – or impossible – depending on the size of your family and the ages of the kids and household members, it definitely can be done with some planning and determination.
The good news is that by exercising with your family, each person benefits and the excuse of not having enough time is less likely. Even if you can’t gather everyone together all the time due to various commitments, families can schedule workouts and include whoever is available at that time. It will take some commitment and creativity, but if it gets you more active, it is definitely worth it.
Every family is different in terms of make-up, resources and preferences, but the goal is to commit to and collectively get healthier – and enjoy each other in the process! Here are some suggestions on how to work out with your family.
Family Workout Benefits
If the multiple health benefits of exercise for adults and children aren’t convincing enough to get your crew moving, consider the additional benefits of exercising as a family:
- Strengthens bonds – Trying new activities, practicing skills and facing physical challenges together create memories and new shared experiences. Sports add a new element of teamwork, and helping each other learn and succeed improves relationships.
- Improves communication – Again, spending time together, whether you’re on a family walk or lifting weights side-by-side, fosters more opportunities for communication.
- Models good habits – In an era where some schools have eliminated physical education, kids need to learn the value of exercise firsthand. Parents who don’t work out send the message to their children that this is unimportant. Instead, they should emphasize that exercise is a priority for a healthy lifestyle. From another perspective, older students who already are active may need to educate their aging parents about the value of regular exercise, and help get them started by joining them for sweat sessions.
- Builds self-confidence – Conquering new challenges, whether that’s running a mile, lifting heavier weights or learning to swim, boosts self-confidence, which can enhance family relationships.
- Is economical – Unlike taking the family to a sporting event, or even just a movie, exercise doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Going for walks, jogs or bike rides costs nothing, and you can set up a home gym relatively inexpensively. Now, with the variety of health club and rec center memberships available, a family membership can be quite economical as well – particularly if you use the facility frequently!
Family Workout Tips
Keep in mind the following to promote successful family workouts:
- Communicate expectations – Discuss a family exercise regimen first and give everyone input. If you have reluctant teens, make sure you outline what is expected, and perhaps throw in some incentives/rewards to encourage compliance. Emphasize that this is a family priority.
- Make a schedule – While this may change based on each person’s commitments, try to stick to a few set times, such as Saturdays at 9 a.m. or Sundays at 10 a.m. so this becomes a priority and conflicts can be avoided, where possible.
- Give everyone input – Let each person choose an activity, if possible, and the others have to give it a try. That means you may end up shooting baskets when you’d rather be on your yoga mat, but compromise every now and then is a good lesson. Take one for the team!
- Have fun – You need to expect participation to make family exercise work, but don’t be so rigid that the fun factor is quashed. Be flexible where necessary and positive to make these workouts good experiences for everyone.
7 Family Workout Options
Here are a few ideas to get you started – pick what works for your family, and modify as necessary.
- Walks – After dinner can be a good time, and you can bring the dog. It doesn’t get much easier than this, and it’s a great opportunity to talk. Very little ones can sit in a stroller, and younger kids can ride their bikes or a scooter.
- Jogging/Running – This may be tough if people have different abilities and paces. But Mom and her daughter may want to team up for a few laps around the park, or can combine jogging with intervals of walking.
- Bicycling – Find a good trail and enjoy the fresh air together.
- Exercise classes – Take a class together, whether it’s boot camp, weight training or group cycling, and encourage each other to work hard.
- Join a gym – Health clubs offer enough variety that everyone can find something they like. While Dad may be in the pool when his son is in the weight room, they can catch up on the way to and from the gym. For young children, look for activity classes they can do while you’re hitting the elliptical. Grandma might prefer the water aerobics class while her granddaughters take yoga. Or the family could sign-up for small group training and have a personal trainer work with the group.
- Calisthenics – Fit these in during TV commercial breaks, so dress comfortably and try squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, crunches, jumping jacks and more.
- Create a home gym – Home workouts are ultra-convenient, and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Check secondhand stores or garage sales for dumbbells, weight benches and exercise DVDs. Look online for sales of used cardio equipment, like a bike, treadmill or elliptical. And invest in lower-cost but versatile accessories, such as a stability ball, resistance tubing, exercise mat and more.
- Invest in outdoor activities – Go hiking if there are trails nearby; try cross-country skiing or stand-up paddleboarding; rent ice skates or inline skates; take on a doubles tennis match; play Frisbee golf or beach volleyball; try kayaking; hit an obstacle course at the local park; play soccer or tag football; and more. Multitask by mowing the lawn (no riding mowers), trimming bushes, pulling weeds, raking leaves and shoveling snow.
When it comes to how to work out with your family, the options are virtually endless – along with the benefits. Try it and enjoy the camaraderie! Stay Fueled.