“Five days…five ways” to exercise with your child

Do you need a jumpstart to get your child exercising? Today’s kids spend increasing amounts of time in sedentary activities like watching television and playing computer games. Unfortunately, less active playtime can put a child at risk for a variety of health issues. Physical activity benefits every member of the family, from the youngest to oldest. Active children have stronger muscles and are less likely to become overweight. Exercise also decreases the risk of other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Additionally, active kids sleep better and are better prepared to handle daily physical and emotional challenges.

According to research reported in the July 26, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, family and friends play an important role in sharply rising obesity rates across the United States. Children and adults with close relatives battling obesity are more likely to have weight problems. This social connection makes it even more important for a family to practice healthy living and exercise together.

To help you get started, try our “5 Days, 5 Ways” challenge. We’ve assembled ideas for five days of fun and exercise for your entire family. So take a deep breath and jump in! These activities will get you and your family moving and having fun.

Day 1 – Family walk or bike ride
Exercise doesn’t have to leave you gasping for breath. Just getting your family moving at a moderate pace is beneficial. Instead of relaxing on the couch after dinner, start a new tradition. Take a family walk or bike ride. Walk around your neighborhood or drive to a local park trail. Sprinkle short bursts of energy into your walk – challenge your child to sprint to the next mail box or stop sign. Take advantage of the break from the distractions of television, computer and telephones. A family walk is a great time to talk to your child and to share experiences with each other.

Day 2 – Backyard Olympics
Channel your inner Olympian and create a series of backyard events to challenge your family. Simple events to set up include the long jump, a 25-yard dash and a ball toss. Another classic event, the obstacle course, is a favorite for kids of all ages. Kids can jump over boxes, zigzag between cones, crawl on the ground, complete jumping-jacks and see who crosses the finish line first. Depending on the size and age range of your family, you can compete individually in the games or divide into teams. Either way, the backyard Olympics are sure to become a favorite family activity.

Day 3 – Play a game
When’s the last time you played kickball or tag? Simple activities like kicking a ball and running help preschoolers develop important motor skills. Using games to develop fundamental skills will also prepare a younger child to participate in school-age team sports. Other games to play include hide-n-seek, follow the leader and red light green light. Older kids might enjoy spotlight, a twist on the traditional hide-n-seek game, played after dark. In spotlight, the seeker uses a flashlight to find the hiding players before they can reach home base. If the seeker catches a player in the flashlight’s beam, the player is out. Regardless of the game you and your child choose, playing an active game is a fun way to work some exercise into the day.

Day 4 – Dance party

Is it raining outside? Take your exercise indoors and have a dance party in the family room! Kids of all ages love music. Even toddlers can wiggle to the beat. Pull out your favorite CD’s, crank up the music and shimmy across the floor. Jump, wave your arms and shake your head. Do your best Hannah Montana impression. For younger kids, see who can perform the silliest dance moves. Learn the latest line dance from your older kids. The whole family will get a great workout without even trying.

Day 5 – Driveway triple tournament
Three timeless activities provide the foundation for the Driveway Triple Tournament. What kid doesn’t like basketball, hopscotch and jumping rope? Gather the family on the driveway and start the games. Hold basketball dribbling and shooting contests. Pull out the sidewalk chalk and design your own hopscotch court. Kids can take turns hopping across the numbers and adding their own twists to the traditional game. Jumping rope is a quick way to get everyone’s heart pounding. See who can jump the longest without tripping. Older kids will enjoy adding tricks to their jumps. You’ll be working leg, back and arm muscles before you realize it.

As a parent, your positive attitude and encouragement will help your family enjoy exercising together. You are an important role model in your child’s life. Giving your child creative ways to exercise together will encourage her to make healthy living a part of her daily life. Keep the activities fun and your child will keep coming back for more! 

Carla Mooney is a freelance writer from Gibsonia, PA.