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10 Top Ways to Stay Active as a Family

Story at-a-glance -

  • Most families, adults and kids alike, are not getting enough physical activity
  • Combining family time with fitness is an easy way to increase physical activity and its associated health benefits
  • Scavenger hunts, family Olympics, water days, mileage goals and even doing chores together are examples of ways to stay active as a family

By Dr. Mercola

Despite the seemingly infinite benefits that physical activity has for your health, most people are not very active. The latest statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that just over 20 percent of adults are meeting recommended physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity!1

In case you're wondering, those guidelines recommend at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week, plus muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.

This trend extends to kids, too – only one in three US kids are physically active every day.2

It's clear that many families also feel there aren't enough hours in a day to spend quality time together, between work, school and other obligations, so it makes perfect sense to make your family time active time as much as possible. This way, you're spending time together while also boosting your fitness and modeling a healthy lifestyle for your kids.

10 Top Ways to Stay Active as a Family

Going to the gym is fine for adults, but when kids are involved you've got to get more creative… and more fun!

1. Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of challenges (find an orange leaf, get a neighbor's signature, snap a photo of a playground, etc.), split your family into teams, set a time limit and then head off (on foot or on bike) to see who can complete the most items.

2. Have a Water Day

Tossing water balloons, splashing in a kiddie pool and running through a sprinkler in the backyard are fun ways to stay cool and active on a hot summer day.

3. Set 'Mileage' Goals for the Weekend

Decide as a family how many steps, or how many miles, you want to travel over the weekend, then have fun trying to reach the goal. You can use pedometers to measure steps taken while running errands, going on hikes, playing tag and more, and can challenge the family to increase your goal each weekend.

4. Wash the Car

Washing the car uses key core muscles and can be a fun, bonding experience, especially if you take time to cool off with the hose, too.

5. Family Olympics

Get together with a group of families and compete in events like hula-hoops, 50-yard dash, relay race, basketball shoot, and an obstacle course. You can even make it an annual event!

6. Family Fitness Classes

If you like a more structured routine, try a fitness class designed for families, like stroller workouts, mom/dad and baby workouts or family yoga.

7. Do Chores Together

Vacuuming, washing windows, weeding the garden, raking leaves and even doing laundry work your muscles and burn calories while teaching your kids the value of responsibility. Make chores fun by setting a time limit and turning up the music while you work together as a family.

8. Plan Seasonal Outdoor Activities

Swimming, biking, canoeing and hiking are great in the summer, while sledding, ice skating, building a snowman or skiing are fun – and great for your fitness goals – in the winter.

9. Play Together

Tag, hide-and-go-seek, hop scotch, doing cartwheels and dancing in the kitchen are so much fun you won't even realize it's exercise in disguise.

10. Try Out Family Sports

A backyard game of softball or volleyball, shooting hoops or taking a trip to a golf course give you quality time as a family while staying active.

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You Can Even Stay Active on Your Family Vacation!

Whether you're going to grandma's house for the weekend, planning a trip abroad or even having a "staycation," family getaways are another opportunity to fit in fun activities that promote fitness. While on vacation, try:

Walking tours Museums, zoos and theme parks (lots of walking!) Collecting seashells
Jogging or walking on the beach Using the hotel gym or doing bodyweight exercises in your hotel room (this will be mostly for mom and dad) Power walking in the airport terminal
Snorkeling, hiking, beach volleyball and other outdoor activities Exploring new locales by foot or bicycle  

What Will Your Kids Gain by Staying Active?

Leading a physically active lifestyle is a good habit to instill in your child from an early age because although it's never too late to start exercising, the sooner you do it, the better. Keeping kids active is a superb way to increase learning, focus and even test results. As many of you reading this have likely experienced, if your mind is feeling cluttered or you're having a mid-afternoon slump, a brisk walk or a quick workout can give you a renewed sense of clarity and focus. This is certainly true for kids and teenagers, too. There are a multitude of short- and long-term health benefits your child can gain from regular physical activity, including:

Reduced risk of diabetes and pre-diabetes Improved sleep and mood Stronger bones Reduced restlessness or hyperactivity; helps decrease symptoms of ADHD
Improved immune system function Decreased risk of suicide in teens Weight loss Increased energy levels

What Will YOU Gain by Staying Active?

The benefits that kids receive extend to adults as well, although as you age you'll begin to reap the benefits of a lifetime of exercise in the form of better mobility, muscle mass and brain power. One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it normalizes your insulin and leptin levels, with the secondary benefits of weight loss and normalization of blood sugars. These basic factors in turn cascade outward, creating a ripple effect of positive health benefits, which include:

Improving your brainpower and boosting your IQ Lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer Building strong bones
Lowering your blood pressure Curing insomnia Losing weight
Relieving pain Balancing your mood and fighting depression Increasing your energy levels
Acquiring fewer colds Lowering your risk of diabetes and reversing pre-diabetes Slowing down your aging process

Limiting Screen Time Is a Key Part of Staying Active

Once you've committed to staying active as a family, you may notice that the time you all spend sitting in front of a computer or the television naturally decrease, and this is a very good thing. More than two hours a day of screen time is associated with increased emotional and behavioral difficulties, regardless of the time spent exercising. According to one study:3

  • Children who spent more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer were 61 and 59 percent more likely to experience high levels of psychological difficulties, respectively
  • Children who spent more than two hours a day watching TV, and also failed to meet physical activity guidelines, were 70 percent more likely to experience high levels of psychological difficulties
  • This risk increased to 81 percent for children who used a computer for more than two hours a day while also failing to meet recommended exercise guidelines

So remember that it is imperative to limit your child's TV, computer, and video game time in addition to encouraging your child to spend more time doing various forms of physical activity.