Regular exercise is a healthy habit that can bring you a lifetime of benefits, and if you’re a parent, getting fit together as a family is one of the best ways to get your kids started on a fit lifestyle while keeping yourself in shape too.
There are tons of benefits to family exercise: it’s a way for you all to bond through a shared experience, encourages children to get their youthful energy out in positive ways, helps build self-confidence, and can be a lot of fun for parents and kids alike. And done regularly, family workouts can foster some great memories that will last a lifetime.
As adults we tend to think about working out as putting in effort towards making ourselves better. The drive you feel in completing your reps and sets is connected to achieving your goals for yourself and getting closer to your ideal self.
For your kids, however, exercise is more about exploration, expression, discovery, and having fun. Try not to think about it so much as “working out” and focus on getting fit and staying in shape through games and activities and some light guidance and goal setting. You’ll want to create family workouts with them, not just for them, based on their interests and personalities.
When you exercise as a family, keep things playful and unpressured. Set aside some clear time for the family workout, involve your kids in planning the activity, and mix things up a bit between games and play and more traditional workout exercises. It’s important that this time together feels exciting and special--you want it to be an event that everyone looks forward to. If you end up feeling a little like a kid yourself while you’re doing it, you’re doing it right.
Here are our tips on how to have family workout sessions that will help you all enjoy fitness together:
Bookend with Warmups and Cooldowns
Whatever you plan for your family workout, get into the habit of doing warmups before your main activity, and cooldowns after it. This will prevent you from getting injured during the course of your exercise and will promote speedy recovery afterwards. It also gives a sense of structure to your activities, providing the sense of a start and a finish.
Jumping Jacks, Skipping Jumps, Squat Reverse Lunges, and Standing Scales are all good basic exercises you can do for warmups, and the Pancake Stretch, Shoulder Stretch, Toes Reach, and Triceps Stretch are great for cooldown. (The Freeletics app has an extensive list of exercises for both warmup and cooldown in the “Explore” menu tab.)
When you first start out, make sure to tell your kids why it’s important to do the warmup and cool down, explaining that this will help them to not get hurt while playing or doing exercises and that it helps them feel better afterwards.
Getting fit through games
Games come naturally to children of all ages and workouts for kids should incorporate games that allow everyone to move through spaces and stay active in an enjoyable way.
- Tag: Tag is a great classic playground favorite to play if you have the room. This simple game helps build focus, reactions, and cardiovascular endurance.
- Equipment-based play: Working with equipment like a ball or a jump rope can also be a good way to engage in playful exercise. Try to see who can do the most unbroken jumps with the jump rope, or make a timed obstacle course that family members can try to dribble a ball through, as quickly as possible. Be creative! The goal here is to have fun while keeping moving as much as possible.
- Treasure Hunt: If you have the room for it, a timed treasure hunt can be turned into a cardio activity for the family. Hide some items with clues attached and set a time limit for finding the final item. Make sure the individual clues are spaced out enough for your kids to run between them.
- Dance Party: Dance is another way for everyone to actively engage their bodies to music that you all enjoy. Pick (or have your kids pick) some uptempo songs and have a “dance party”, where everyone makes up their own dance moves while the song is on and keeps going until the song finishes.
Family workouts are a great way to teach kids some basic bodyweight exercises that you all can do together. This can include Situps, Lunges, Squats, Pushups, and Ground Superman, among others.
Once your family members have learned how to do these exercises with good form, you can take turns spotting each other to make sure everyone is doing them correctly, making sure to give positive feedback for well-done reps. Check out our Tutorial Tuesdays playlist below for some ideas and help with your form:
Having these as part of your workout has a number of benefits, including helping your children understand what good form is and helping them get used to exercises that they can use in workouts as they grow, so that the basics will feel easy and familiar later in life.
Once everyone in the family knows enough exercises to mix into a set, you can set some basic goals that will provide fun challenges, such as trying to do as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in a set amount of time, or trying to beat your times for a particular set of exercises.
Walk / run / bike as a family in the great outdoors
Working out together can also be as simple as going out into nature on family walks, runs, or bike rides. It’s an easy way to get everyone involved in cardio while enjoying the environment. Studies have shown that spending an extended amount of time in nature improves mood, reduces stress, and can boost levels of vitamin D on sunny days.
Plan a path in your neighborhood or local green spaces and make sure to give plenty of encouragement to your family members along the way as you make your way through the route together.
Optional challenge: family relays for time
Families with older children may appreciate a more structured running workout. For this, try doing a family relay over a course. The “Free Run” option in the Freeletics app (you can find it in the “Explore” section of the app) can help you track your times and distances.
Segment the course into stages, one for each family member. Each family member should run a distance that is challenging but that they are comfortable with completing. Start the timer when the first person starts running. When one person reaches the next, pass the timer to the next family member, and when the last person reaches the finish, stop the timer. You can run the same course over different workouts to try and break your family course PB.
Exercising with family can help parents and children bond while promoting everyone’s fitness. Fun ways of getting fit together can include a mix of games and traditional exercises. You should tailor your workouts to your kids’ interests and keep things playful and fun, making sure to give positive encouragement to all family members as you go through the workout. Give your children the opportunity to help you out during family exercise time by asking them to make sure you are also doing exercises and games correctly, and by involving them in the workout planning.