I read a staggering statistic this week. 20% of the children (ages 2-19) in the United States are clinically obese. That’s over 14 million children and teens! As I dug deeper to discover what was causing this alarming trend (one also experienced in other countries), I saw a common thread: insufficient exercise and poor diet choices. The solution seems so obvious; eat better, move more. This article focuses on fun ways to engage the whole family in physically activity.

A family holding the hand of a toddler, working on physical fitness together.

Vacations Make Great Starting Points

Teen girl with backpack on a hike.

Many families are hitting the roads and the airways to go on vacation. If yours is one of them, take the opportunity to encourage physical activities enshrouded in fun: For example, participate in a family bike ride, a manageable hike disguised as a scavenger hunt, or a lively game of beach volleyball. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. Choose to explore new locations on foot rather than by car; who knows what exciting discoveries you might stumble upon?

Family Sports Weekends

While not a regular occurrence, it can be fun to plan and then host a family sports weekend. Enjoy a family game of kickball, football, dodgeball, or other sport your family enjoys. If a bowling alley is nearby, why not have a family bowling team?

Dance in the Kitchen

If you play music in the kitchen while fixing dinner, why not incorporate some “smooth moves” while you are cooking? Kids think this is hilarious…and most times, they join in. Make sure it lasts at least the length of a song, and then encourage them to assist you in fixing the meal. If there’s the chance of seeing Mom or Dad dance badly again, they’ll stick around. 

Boys, Funny, Faces, Expressions, Friends

Workout with Your Family

If your children regularly see you exercising, they are more likely to consider it part of a daily routine…just like combing your hair or brushing your teeth. You must model the behavior for it to take effect. This “practice what you preach” model is the key to everything. Invite your children, either all together, or one on one, to accompany you on your walk or jog. Ask them to Zumba with you (they’ll LOVE it!). Better still, have your kids show you how to become involved in Just Dance on their PlayStation or Xbox 360. 

Sweaty Saturdays

Have the family do something active on the weekend, such as participating in a local community clean-up, volunteering for a charity, or even working in the yard (or, better yet, that of a surprised neighbor). Exercising comes in many forms and doesn’t have to mean visits to the gym, only.

Outdoor Clubs

Small boy holding a fencing foil.

Consider joining organizations or clubs whose focus is an outdoor activity. For example, if you live near a lot of waterways, how fun would it be to go kayaking a few times a month? Or maybe you have an active rock-climbing group, hiking group, horseback riding club, or fencing association (epees, not the barrier you put up between you and the nosy neighbors). 

No Shortage of Options

Opportunities to engage the family in more physically actives are limitless. Maybe you’d all like to learn to dance? The local recreation center might be able to accommodate you. Like to swim? There’s usually a public swimming pool nearby that you can take advantage of. Or snap a leash on the dog and walk to a nearby park. After all, pup is a member of the family and needs exercise too!

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