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Family Fitness: Have Fun (While Exercising)!


By Tom Wilson

When I was a kid, my dad and I took on my two brothers in basketball every Sunday after church. The losing team had to do the lunch dishes to give Mom a break. Now those were some intense, competitive workouts, but we had a blast doing it!

You always knew what season it was around our house because we were outside doing something active, shooting hoops, throwing the football around or playing catch during baseball season. My sister still has a lump on her leg to this day from playing football with the boys! Everyone got into the action.

I look back on that and realize how fortunate I was that my parents set a great example of not only spending quality time together as a family, but incorporated exercise at the same time. As I was writing this, I stopped to call my parents and thank them for the example they set. They said there was no need to thank them and I quote, "We had as much fun as you kids!" And that's the way it should today, families spending quality active time together and having fun doing it.

When it comes to your health, what kind of message are you sending to those around you? Are you steering your kids in the right direction so they don't suffer all the adverse effects of poor health? When you neglect your health, you're also setting the stage for your children to suffer as well. Studies show that 60% of overweight parents also have overweight children. The Bible tells us we are to live our lives so as to set a good example to those around us.

"But as for you, promote the kind of living that reflects right teaching."
Titus 2:1 (New Living Translation)

So start leading by example, not only spiritually, but physically as well. The best way to get the whole family on track is to get the whole family working out together. Turn off the television, put down the video game controls and lace up the cross-trainers. It's time for family fitness to make a comeback!

Time/Schedule Conflicts

I know how difficult it can be just to get the whole family together for a meal, let alone a workout. But like everything else in life, we make time for what's important and this is important!

Set a time and instruct everyone, including you parents, to not schedule anything during that time. Let the kids bring a friend along or encourage other families to join in on the fun. You can set a good example to your family as well as your friends at the same time. Make it fun for everyone involved by selecting activities everyone can participate in at the same time and everyone will enjoy. By making family workouts a part of your normal routine, you can enjoy one another's company and improve the entire family's health at the same time.

Below are a few suggestions to help you get started:

Include the entire family in the workout decisions. The more input everyone has, the more excited they will be to do the activity. There's pride in ownership so allow them to own part of the workout. From the days and times you decide on to the activities you choose to do, get everyone's input.

Choose activities everyone can do. Families with younger children should incorporate less vigorous routines that are age appropriate. The last thing you want to do is send the message that exercising isn't fun. If necessary, engage in fun exercises with your kids and create a separate workout for you and your spouse at a different time.

Be creative. Your family workouts should never be boring or dull. You don't have to do push-ups and sit-ups to have a good workout. Think fun. Incorporate scenic bike rides, walks/runs through neighborhood parks, play sports or Frisbee tag. Make up your own games and add in incentives and competition.

Don't push too hard at first. Your family may not be too particularly enthused in the beginning so don't push too hard and make everyone miserable. Remember, the "exercise is fun" theme is critical to the long term results. Experts say it takes about 21 days to create a new habit, so be patient.

Here are some fun suggestions you may want to try:

Team Sports

Sports are one of the easiest ways to combine fun and exercise. It's also a great way to get the competitive spirits flowing which will generally increase the intensity of the workout and get everyone's heart rates going!

The sport you choose depends on what everyone enjoys doing. If your clan enjoys basketball, head to the nearest court and shoot some hoops. Soccer is a great cardiovascular workout and also develops footwork and balance. Volleyball is also a great workout and you can enjoy the beach at the same time. Whatever you decide, make sure it includes a lot of movement. Horseshoes does not qualify!

Water Fun

Most kids love the water and water workouts are a great source of exercise. The water provides full range of motion resistance to get your heart rates up and strengthen and tone your muscles at the same time. There are also water exercise tools available at most sporting goods stores. These accessories (such as webbed gloves) are inexpensive and add even more resistance to your workouts or games you come up with. Most people will spend hours playing and swimming in the water without ever feeling like they are exercising.

Hiking

Why do you suppose treadmills are designed with the ability to incline up to 25 degrees? It's because walking uphill is great for the legs and can really get the heart racing. And there is certainly no shortage of hiking trails in Southern California! Be sure to pack plenty of water and healthy snacks!

Whatever you decide to do, get the whole family involved, be creative and have fun with it. The more fun everyone has, the more they'll want to participate and the less it feels like actual exercise! Plus, a good belly laugh is equivalent to 10 sit-ups! So start spending quality family exercise time together and build an exercise legacy for generations to come.