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4 Fun Exercises for Family Health and Fitness Day

Mother and daughter doing yoga together at a park

GettyImages / Peathegee Inc

Key Takeaways

  • June 13th, 2020 is Family Health and Fitness Day.
  • Physical exercise is extremely important for childhood development.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has made group fitness a challenge, but you can still get creative with how you and your family stay fit.

Family Health and Fitness Day is on June 13. Encouraged by the National Recreation and Park Association, this special day reminds families everywhere of the importance of family exercise for both parents and children. 

With social distancing guidelines still in place, many families are looking for unique ways to stay active. The coronavirus pandemic may discourage some from taking a walk or going to the park, but outdoor exercise can be done safely.

As long as your family follows the recommended safety tips, exercising outside is a fun way to engage in family exercise every day. Indoor exercises are also an option for families with limited access to a backyard or nearby park.

Benefits of Family Exercise

The benefits of family exercise apply to both children and parents. Challenging each other through physical activity and succeeding at performing exercises creates a positive relationship with healthy habits. Exercising with your children is a fun bonding opportunity that also has mental and physical health benefits. 

“Both children and adults get a boost of those happy chemicals (i.e. dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin) from exercising,” explains Judy Ho, Ph. D., ABPP, ABPdN, a triple board-certified Clinical Neuropsychologist and co-host of The Doctors TV Show. “Also, parents may feel more connected to their children through shared quality time.”

It is especially important for development that young children are active. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that only 25% of children get a healthy amount of exercise. They encourage families to exercise together so children can experience some of the benefits of physical exertion, such as:

  • Improved sleep
  • Increased flexibility
  • Reduced stress
  • Strengthened cardiovascular system
  • Boosted self-esteem
  • Strengthened bones and muscles
  • Reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes
  • Increased attention
  • Learned concepts like teamwork

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children ages 3 through 5 years should exercise for around three hours per day. When children reach 6 years of age through adolescence, they should aim for one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day.

1. Aerobic Activities

When children go outside and play, they are often participating in aerobic activities, such as walking, running, and biking. This is a great way for every member of the family to get their heart rate up and work up a sweat. Plus, going for a walk is an accessible form of exercise. To bring aerobic activities indoors, set up a relay race in the house or jog in place. 

“Any aerobic exercise will work great for children because they need to use their large muscles,” states Lina Velikova, MD, Ph.D., a medical doctor in the field of clinical immunology.

Lina Velikova, MD

Hiking, walking, and running are especially beneficial because these activities include healthy bonding and can be spiced up with some friendly competition for children that thrive on it.

— Lina Velikova, MD

2. Outdoor Sports

Many adults have memories of playing catch and other sports with their parents. For kids who enjoy competition or thrive off working toward a goal, outdoor sports may be the perfect form of exercise. Fortunately, this can be done in your own backyard or at a nearby park. 

“Put your little kicker to work by developing their physical abilities through soccer,” suggests Allison Wilson, Senior Director of Curriculum & Innovation at Stratford School. “If you don’t have a net, you can use cones or sticks to mark a target to kick toward. Encourage your child to shoot for the goal!”

Since there are many sports to choose from — soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball, and frisbee — this is a form of exercise that never gets boring.

While there is no shortage of at-home workout videos to choose from, the vast majority is geared towards adults and not suitable for young children. Jessica Pumple, a children’s fitness instructor, wants to change that. She makes at-home workout videos for kids that incorporate children’s toys and characters.

Pumple’s focus is “making fitness fun by including the toys but also getting a good workout in to start a lifelong habit of fitness. It's excellent bonding time and, of course, has all the benefits of exercise, such as reducing risks of chronic diseases and obesity later in life.”

Other kid-friendly at-home workout videos include yoga, stretching, and dancing.

3. Strength-Building and Bodyweight Exercises 

While it’s fun to get creative with dance workouts and set up a soccer net in the backyard, some forms of exercise require no equipment and are just as effective. 

“Exercises that do not require anything other than bodyweight are perfect: jumping jacks, jumping rope, sit-ups, and push-ups,” recommends Jordanna Quinn, D.O., M.S., a board-certified physiatrist.

Other strength-building exercises include climbing on jungle gyms and racing through obstacle courses. These are usually available at parks, though they can be built in your own backyard as well.

4. Home Improvement Projects

The calories burned while doing household chores and home improvement projects adds up quickly. While children do not typically volunteer to do chores, they may enjoy projects like gardening, car washing, and painting, which can all work up a sweat.

“While it may be reasonable to kick around a soccer ball or hit a few softballs in the yard, exercise doesn’t just have to be about sports,” suggests Leah M. Alexander, MD, a board-certified pediatrician. “Simple family activities such as household tasks and yard work are forms of exercise, too.”

What This Means For You

Since children are inspired by their parents, exercising with your children is a great way to set a good example of a healthy lifestyle. Plus, working out together can be fun and rewarding. Try aerobic activities like hiking, outdoor sports, simple bodyweight exercises, and household chores and projects.

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