Ask most parents and they’ll say that nothing is more important than the health of their family. You’re probably aware that as a nation, we’ve become more and more sedentary over time. And you may have a fitness routine that you stick to (most of the time anyway) to stay healthy. But when work gets busy or your calendar gets filled with activities, one of the first things to go might be your personal fitness routine. Have you ever thought about creating a fitness plan for the whole family? Maybe you’ve been wondering how to stay more consistent with your fitness routine. The answer might be to get your family to be more active and fit, too.
We at Whole Family solutions believe that the best way to stay active, manage stress, and create healthy eating habits is to make this something that involves the whole family. Our 21 day Family Wellness Challenge motivates you to think of healthy habits in a new way that includes all members of the household.
Creating a Fitness Plan for the Whole Family: Getting Started
The first step for developing a family fitness plan is to decide what being fit means to you and your family. If you pick the brains of experts, being fit usually means you have a certain level of aerobic endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility. It also means you have a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI).
You probably don’t need to worry about the specific terms, though. The real questions for you or any member of your family are these:
- Do you get tired easily?
- Do you feel like you lack physical strength?
- Are you overweight?
- How is your sleep?
- Do you find yourself sitting for long periods of time each day?
If you decide you need to make improvements in any of the areas mentioned, you’ll want to start thinking about ways to improve your fitness. And a great way to do this is to get everyone in the family involved.
Ground Rules for a Family Fitness Plan
To make your family fitness plan a success, you’ll want to start with a few ground rules:
- Identify and set SMART goals.
- Encourage participation, but don’t force it.
- Make it doable for everyone in the family.
- Make it fun and exciting.
- Create a schedule.
- Encourage everyone to contribute ideas.
- Post your plan.
- Take turns running challenges or activities.
- Keep track.
- Fuel your body with healthy foods and snacks!
Creating a Fitness Plan for the Whole Family
Think about things you can do with your entire family unit to increase everyone’s fitness level. For the most part, this is exercise and physical activity. But those words don’t sound very “fun” to most kids, do they? So, think about it in terms of having fun as a family instead.
You might have some personal goals you’d like to work on, and getting everyone involved – rather than waiting until you have free time – will help you to meet your own goals faster while building a culture of wellness within your family.
So, what can you do to increase your activity level? Well, it depends on your goal. Here are a few goals you might have in mind:
Need to work on endurance? Try brisk walking or hiking together. If you like sports, play volleyball, soccer, or touch football together. If you have a pool or access to a pool, go swimming!
Want to work on flexibility? Find a yoga studio that offers family yoga classes. There are also studios that offer special classes just for kids if you prefer to let the kids do their own thing while you take some time to recharge in a class for grownups.
Want to work on losing weight? Consider what needs to happen to reach that goal. Do you need to be more active, increase the intensity of your current workouts, or is diet and nutrition more of an issue?
While not everyone will have the same goal, everyone can benefit from a more active lifestyle and healthy habits. And you don’t need a gym membership to create a family fitness plan, either.
21 Fun Family Fitness Activities
Below are ideas to help you create a fitness plan for the whole family, and help your family achieve their fitness goals!
1. Take the dog for a walk. Pull double duty by getting everyone out of the house while walking the dog at the same time.
2. Have a treasure hunt. Hide something interesting or valuable somewhere in the home or yard. Put together a “treasure map” for others in the family to find it. Make it even more active by creating rules for participation. For instance, the hunter has to do 10 jumping jacks before moving on to the next step.
3. Fly a kite. Need a break from the indoors? Go outside and fly a kite! Kite-flying is a great way to get exercise. Fly in your back yard or at a local park.
4. Take more steps to the store. When you go shopping, park at the very end of the parking lot. Make this a regular thing to have everyone easily increase their steps every day.
5. Play silly “old school” games. Have a sack race in the back yard, or play “Red Light Green Light.” Yea, these are old games but your kids will think they’re fun! Think of games that everyone can participate in while getting a little goofy.
6. Have a dance-off. Turn up the tunes and dance. Dancing is a great way to stay fit, have fun, and burn off some calories. Play musical chairs or freeze dance.
7. Take a hike. Hiking is a great way to be more active as a family. And if you have teens, they won’t even realize they’re exercising (shhh). Look for scenic hikes that fit the difficulty level based on the age ranges of your kids and your own fitness level. Create a list of things to find as you explore.
8. Go bike-riding. Take the family bikes for a spin around the neighborhood. A regular evening ride can be a great way to get to know more people in your neighborhood, too.
9. Play sports. Have a soccer match or football game, or play kickball in the backyard. Create your own family rules to make it even more fun.
10. Create an obstacle course. Turn your backyard into an obstacle course. Create age-appropriate obstacles for all family members and offer a prize to the winners. (Hint: everyone wins for their effort).
11. Go for a walk. Head outside for a family walk. Make it a regular thing, too. Create a schedule for how often and what days you’ll walk. Log how many miles you walk each week, and set goals to increase that the following week. Going for an evening walk together is a great way to lower stress after a busy day of school and work.
12. Buy fitness-friendly gifts. Think about gift purchases differently. Purchase toys and gifts for family and non-family members that have a fitness component.
13. Take the stairs. Create a community of stair-climbers. Encourage everyone in the family to have the habit of opting for stairs when available.
14. Do a push-up challenge. Take a baseline of how many push-ups everyone can do. Have family members work to increase their push-ups throughout the month and then record again at the end of the month. When you’re creating a fitness plan for the whole family, you want it to be easy and doable for everyone. Push-ups are a great activity to include.
15. Run or walk for a cause. Form a family team and participate in a charity walk or run in your community.
16. Wash the family vehicle(s). This can be such a fun activity for everyone. Water, soap and bubbles are every kid’s dream.
17. Create a fun family fitness video. Get everyone moving and having fun by creating a fitness video. You can take turns doing “demos” of various exercise or work out together as a family and capture all the silly moments on film. Create a plan for how you will film, who will lead exercises or talk, the music if there is any, the length of the video. But most importantly, have fun!
18. Have a relay. Create a little competition. This can be done as individuals or in teams, depending on your family size. Put together a list of activities that need to be completed on the relay, and time each person or team. The goal is to have the fastest time. Get creative! Fun ideas might be hopping on one leg from the kitchen to the front door, or folding and putting away towels with a catch: you have to carry them on your head one at a time. The more you can imagine, the more fun this will be!
19. Build a fort. What kid doesn’t love to build a fort!? This can be a fun activity for everyone.
20. Go swimming. Swimming is a great skill for everyone to have, and it’s a great activity to boost physical fitness, too.
21. Play Hopscotch. This one is simple. All you need is a piece of chalk, your driveway or sidewalk, and a small object like a quarter to toss.
The great thing about creating a fitness plan for the whole family is it accomplishes so much. Not only will everyone be healthier, but you’ll have the opportunity to spend quality time together and connect in a way that you simply can’t do otherwise. When your family prioritizes fitness, you’re working together to reach a common goal and forming healthy habits, for life.
Alicia Hyatte is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Family Wellness Advocate, Health Educator, and a Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. She helps parents to build healthier habits and routines to better balance home and work life. Her website, WholeFamilyLiving.com, provides motivation and simple strategies for handling everyday challenges like managing stress, being active, eating healthier, losing weight, and more. Alicia is a beach lover and gardening geek in her spare time.