Physical activity should always be on our to-do list. But for moms with busy schedules and never-ending demands, fitting in enough with the kids can sometimes feel like more work.
But instead of looking at physical activity as a challenge, try creative ways to move more with your kids. Start where you are and make simple changes that add more movement to your daily routine. Many activities can be free or low cost.
Any movement that gets your heart rate up can offer health benefits and help the whole family feel better and perform daily tasks more easily. Active play can also help adults reach the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommended minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, or a combination of both preferably spread throughout the week.
Moving more as a family also helps kids reach the AHA’s suggested physical activity goals. Kids 6-17 years old should get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. And although the AHA doesn’t suggest a specific number of exercise minutes for children 3-5 years old, it recommends they should be physically active throughout the day.
If meeting these recommendations feels overwhelming, remember that progress is more important than perfection. Any movement counts.
So put a new spin on physical activity with these creative ideas, adopting them to fit your lifestyle and preferences:
- Power up your walk: There are countless ways to make a typical neighborhood walk more fun. Make it a scavenger hunt or nature walk. Along the way, use what’s available to add in other exercises. For example, a park bench is a great place to do elevated pushups or a curb to do step-ups.
- Empower your kids to create exercises: Ask your school-age kids to teach you the games they play in gym class. If your kids aren’t in school yet, encourage creativity and let them make up the day’s activities.
- Play your favorite games: Your kids may enjoy playing the games you loved as a kid. Old-school favorites such as tag, hopscotch, musical chairs or hot potato can get the heart rate and giggles going.
- Create an obstacle course: Create a backyard obstacle course with everyday items. Jump over a branch, crawl under a table, lunge from one tree to the next. How many other obstacles can you and your kids create?
- Explore other parks: Venture out of your usual surroundings and make a family goal to try new locations in your area each month. Each park may have different equipment, trails and play spaces.
- Turn the music on and dance together: Dancing is free and can be done almost anywhere. Play some of your childhood favorite songs or pick a theme and dance to the music of another culture.
- Find together time: Partner exercises are fun with family. Some options include having a wheelbarrow race, tossing a weighted ball to each other or running a relay around the back yard
- Make it a challenge: Pick a simple exercise such as jumping jacks or sit-ups. Then set a timer and fit in as many as possible. Keep track of how many each person does and try to beat those numbers each time.
- Use props: You can use an endless variety of items to make physical activities more fun for the family. Consider items such as hula hoops, jump ropes, water balloons and yard games such as corn hole. You may already have many of these or you can borrow them.
- Try new activities: Plan a family outing that will get everyone moving. Check out local businesses or recreational centers for free or low-cost activities such as rock climbing, skateboarding or swimming.
- Ask others to join you: Team up with other moms, friends or neighbors and have fun as a group with games such as kickball or volleyball.
- Include furry friends: Dogs can be “purrfect” motivators to keep the family moving. Take the dog on a walk, visit a dog park or play together in the backyard.
- Chart your progress: Start a family calendar and log your activities. It can be motivating for you (and your kids) to see the progress.
- Include flexibility and balance: A well-rounded exercise routine includes flexibility and balance. Add in time to stretch, balance on one leg or walk heel to toe forward and backward.
Remember, physical activity is supposed to be fun. Don’t stress about the details. Use play time with your kids to bond and create memories. When your kids see you enjoying physical activity, it reinforces that moving their bodies is fun. This mindset leads to healthier, longer lives for the whole family.