Children used to play physically active games when they got home from school. Unfortunately, now too many play video games, watch TV or sit in front of a computer.
Taking part in exercise should be encouraged from an early age and it’s something the whole family can enjoy together. There’s a vast array of experiences and emotions that determine a young person’s willingness to be active. An emphasis on enjoyment rather than winning encourages children to participate in a wide variety of sports at school, within the community, and with family and friends.
It’s important that young people have a range of options to choose from, because this provides them with a better chance of finding something they enjoy. The enjoyment of physical activity as a child can shape lifelong attitudes and participation in sports and exercise.
Exercising together as a family is a great way to strengthen relationships. This will benefit everyone’s health, and stimulate a child’s interest in physical activity.
Children mimic their parents, and that includes participation in sports and exercising. Parents can talk about the traits and values that make regular activity enjoyable, such as good sportsmanship and teamwork.
Don’t rely on your child’s school alone to provide all their physical activity. By providing some yard space for play and some simple, inexpensive play equipment, parents can intentionally create a culture of physical activity in their home.
Following is a list of 10 activities in which parents and kids can all get involved together.
1. Visit your local park
A trip to the park creates the perfect opportunity for both parents and children to be active together. So don’t just sit there and watch your kids burn off kilojoules. Get involved!
Activities and games such as Frisbee, kite flying and playing tag are opportunities to have fun and interact with your family in the great outdoors. If your children are younger, the emphasis should be on activity and movement, not exercise.
At the very least, you can all have fun while doing some incidental activity. And you’ll certainly burn a lot more kilojoules playing in a park for two hours than you would sitting in front of the TV.
2. Take a trip to the beach
Whether you’re on holidays or live near the ocean, there’s something for everyone at the beach. Some popular favourites include bodysurfing, bodyboarding, surfing and beach volleyball.
There are also activities such as walking, running and swimming that require little or no equipment. The sand is a great surface for walking or running because the “give” makes it a harder workout while at the same time cushioning the knee and ankle joints.
Swimming can be done in the open ocean or in sheltered pools, and some beaches lend themselves to walking or running in shallow water. Most of all, it’s a great place to spend time with your family, where you can indulge in a wide variety of activities.
3. Go hiking
Whether it’s through a national park or the bush near your home, hiking is a great way to get active with your family. It costs next to nothing and you can choose a terrain to suit all ages and levels of fitness.
Being outdoors in an open and pleasant location helps to keep things new and fresh and makes exercise more interesting. Hikes also tend to last longer than the usual exercise walk, helping to boost fitness and weight management.
Ask family members to identify interesting things along the way, such as plants and animals. Make sure to wear good-quality footwear, and pack plenty of water and healthy snacks.
4. Play ball
There’s a wide variety of ball games that can suit all ages and levels of ability, including soccer, baseball, volleyball, touch football, basketball and tennis. They are great ways to have fun and improve coordination skills while improving your fitness and strength.
Encourage your child to try many different activities and sports, which increases the chance of their finding an activity they are passionate about. Include friends, neighbours and extended family, and make it a regular event. Keep things fun for younger children, but try a bit of competition for teens. Be sure to warm up properly and stretch afterward to avoid injury and soreness.
5. Try some “exertainment”
There’s a new and increasing range of interactive games and video games that almost trick you into being active. This has been labelled exertainment and it allows families to be semiactive together indoors.
An example is sports video games that use a motion-sensitive remote that allows you to play virtual tennis, baseball and tenpin bowling. Your movements are reflected on the screen and you can compete against other players or the computer.
Other devices and games encourage jumping, boxing and running, although games that allow more than one family member to compete are best. While it isn’t as good as the real thing, exertainment is a fun way for the family to exercise together instead of just sitting on the couch.
6. Walk your child to school
Safety fears and expanding suburban boundaries have resulted in most kids sitting in a bus or car on the way to school. Unfortunately, the result is that they miss out on the benefits of walking to and from school.
Walking to school will be beneficial for your children’s physical development and give them an opportunity to mix socially with their peers or siblings. It can also boost the wellbeing of accompanying parents and provide an opportunity for sharing quality time.
You can walk younger children to school, and as you do so, you can identify and discuss any safety concerns, including safe places to cross the road.
7. Take an active family holiday
When you go on a family holiday, don’t make it all about hiding in a book or lounging around a pool doing nothing. Focus your entertainment and family time around non-food-related activities, games, sports and exercise.
Seek out accommodation with playgrounds, tennis courts, swim-
ming pools and organised activities that everyone can enjoy together. Be creative and explore your new surroundings as a family.
Some examples include renting bikes, using local walking paths, renting a kayak or simply enjoying an active picnic with a kite or Frisbee. Camping holidays foster more activity and allow you to enjoy the great outdoors.
8. Find time for fun
If your children groan at the very mention of exercise, make it all about having fun. Activities such as table tennis, mini golf or walking around the zoo will still get everyone moving yet hardly seem like exercise.
Games like hopscotch, jump rope or playing with a hula hoop can burn kilojoules and improve fitness. They can also help to improve balance, coordination, agility, strength, speed and flexibility. These types of fun games can be described as physical activity in disguise!
Get everyone involved in choosing which activity to participate in by either taking a vote or taking turns. Adults and children alike can benefit and bond from shared laughter.
9. Go extreme
If your children are a little older, try some adventure sports. Activities that get the adrenaline pumping can add excitement and fun to your next family outing. Taking a step outside your family’s comfort zone can be a challenging and rewarding experience.
Some examples include mountain biking, high ropes courses, kite surfing, indoor rock climbing, in-line skating, snow-skiing and snowboarding.
Safety is a priority with extreme activities, so seek professional help and supervision, and guided tours that will provide all the necessary safety equipment and training.
10. Get wet
There’s a wide range of activities you can enjoy as a family around water. If there’s an ocean, a lake, a lagoon, a river or a dam within reasonable driving distance, every-one can cool off and get fit at the same time. Some activities include waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, white-water rafting, wakeboarding, windsurfing and stand-up paddle boarding.
Check what equipment is available to rent or look for organised groups and tours you can join. Consider water safety at all times and use a personal flotation device, even when it isn’t required.
In the hot summer months, it’s also wise to follow the normal rules of skin care, such as wearing a hat or cap and a shirt and using SPF 30+ sunscreen. Even in winter, though the rest of your body will be fully clothed, it’s wise to use sunscreen on your face anytime you spend a significant amount of time outside.