I have two girls, and connecting with them is important to me. With everyone’s busy schedules, organizing family time together takes planning. Being active with my kids at least a couple of times a week is one way we spend quality time together. This can be as simple as walking around the neighbourhood, playing basketball, going to local parks, or riding bikes.
Exercises you can do with your family
Here’s a lineup of fun exercises that can be done at home or in a park that kids (and parents) will have fun doing together. I’ve added a handful of modifications to each activity to ensure they’re accessible and achievable for everyone in your family, regardless of age or prowess.
Get-ups can be as simple as you need them to be, depending on your fitness level. They’re great for beginners because they force each muscle group to work.
The easiest way to do a get-up is to grab a chair, then stand up and sit back down repeatedly. A more advanced version is to do them from the ground. Start off lying flat on your back, roll over onto all fours, and stand up. Then get back down on all fours, lie down on your back, and repeat from the beginning.
Pushups are another exercise that almost anyone can do at some level. A great way to start is against a wall so that you don’t have as much body weight on your arms.
To do these pushups, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the wall and step your feet back to create a comfortable incline. Bend your elbows, lean into the wall and hold that position. Then, slowly push back until your arms are straight.
You can also do pushups on the floor. The key is to have your chest move toward the ground instead of your chin.
A march mimics the steps of a run. Both marching and running use the same muscle groups: your core and hip flexors.
Level one is a standing march. Level two is a high knee jog, lifting your knees towards your chest. Level three is a full sprint on the spot.
Before starting the march, tuck your chin down and stand up straight. Marching can be done in a burst of 10 to 30 second-intervals, depending on your kids’ and your ability. Pace yourself by starting at 10 seconds and push this to either 20 or 30 seconds as you progress.
4. Step overs or hop overs
Hop overs or step overs are an easy exercise that kids usually have a lot of fun doing because kids love jumping around! If you’re outside, find a bench or object around two and a half feet high. All you do is hop over the bench or, to make it easier, step over it. Again, this can be as easy or as challenging as you want to make it.
Another easy ab exercise is to get into a pushup position, hold it at the top of that position, and keep your body straight. This is called a plank. This exercise tightens the core and glutes and can help with lower back pain when done consistently.
You can also do this on your forearms instead of your hands. When you’re a beginner, holding it for 10 seconds is fine. Eventually, you can work your way up to a full minute. If you’re more advanced, have a fun competition with your kids to see who can hold a plank for the longest time!
6. Mountain climber
Start in a plank position and drive your knees towards your chest, alternating each leg without lifting your hips. This one’s great for your abdominal muscles. Make sure to control your pace and engage your abs. Doing 10 climbers with perfect form is far better than 30 crappy repetitions.
7. Lunge walk
A lunge walk combines two movements and is as simple as it sounds.
Step forward and bend at the knees until your back leg almost touches the ground (like in the image above). Alternate legs and move forward with each lunge. A good number to start with is 20 lunges or 10 per side.
8. Bear crawls
It’s not the easiest exercise to do, but it’s one kids love because it’s basically crawling around.
Level one is to get in a bear crawl position and simply hold it. Your hands will be shoulder-width apart, and your knees will be 1 to 2 inches off the ground. The most crucial aspect of this exercise is engaging the core while keeping your back straight with the tailbone and the chin tucked. Hold the position for 20 seconds, then increase it to a minute.
When the static position becomes easy, you can try level two and start moving around while you channel your inner bear. This exercise will work your quads, arms, shoulders, and core.
Ways to motivate your kids to get moving
Here are a couple of things that work for me.
Tap into their ego
When I want to get my kids moving, I challenge them by saying, “I bet you can’t do 10 pushups” or “I bet you can’t hold a squat for 30 seconds.”
Doing so taps into their egos and builds their confidence. I don’t believe in pushing kids too hard, but motivating my kids helps them realize everything takes work and effort. When they push themselves just a little more, they become stronger physically, which will benefit them for years to come.
Lead by example
The best way to teach kids to be active is to show them. When kids see their parents being active, it helps them be motivated to exercise.
Benefits of exercising as a family
Create bonding time
Taking walks, whether it’s a quick stroll around the block or a hike in the forest, provides an excellent opportunity for family bonding and reconnection, no matter how hectic life gets. Physical activity and breathing in the fresh air together nurture a sense of connection and helps to strengthen family ties.
Promote healthy habits with your kids
When your kids see you prioritize physical activity, they’re more likely to try it too. Exercising with your kids promotes healthier behaviours and improves self-esteem, physical fitness and overall health.
Reduces screen time
Too much screen time promotes sedentary behaviour. Family workouts are a great way to get your kids off of their devices and connect with you instead.
Don’t take my word for it. Give these family-friendly exercises a try and see for yourself how simple, beneficial and fun exercise with your family can be.
Here’s an easy, any fitness level workout routine I created with my kids for Move For Your Mental Health in 2021.
What are some of your favourite ways to get active with your family? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!