I was a pretty active kid. We didn’t have all the electronics that are available now, so if we wanted something to do, we had to engage in some sort of physical activity.
It wasn’t exactly the dark ages, of course. We did have color televisions and cable, but my parents would only let us watch for a limited time. The same went for the music on our fancy Sony Walkmans. (Today, I am so thankful my parents enforced a media-limitation rule. I didn’t like it so much then, however.) Anyway, we ended up playing inside a lot of the time, but mostly we went outside to run around, make up games, ride bikes, go to the park, or go swimming in the summer.
Because my kids have so many opportunities to use electronics, we enforce pretty diligent screen time rules. When screen time is over, I encourage them to do as much as they can outside. But I’m also finding that, every once in a while, it’s fun for them to exercise with me.
I know: What am I thinking? Exercise time for adults is usually when we decompress before the day begins or after the day ends. It’s good alone time. It’s stress relief. But I’ve learned that when my kids see me working out, they want to do it too. And I think that’s a great example to be setting for them. When they understand that Mommy wants to take care of her body and try to keep it healthy and in shape, it motivates them to be healthy too. So sometimes we work out together … and I actually enjoy it.
No, really. I do!
When we exercise together, everybody works out at their own pace. Don’t get your hopes up — this is no intense P90X experience. It’s mainly an opportunity to introduce a little fitness to the kids and give them a chance to have fun with exercise. In the meantime, I try to help them with good form with certain exercises, because learning to do it right is just as important as doing it at all (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way).
Anyway, here are some of the things we do at home. They’re hard enough that I feel I’m getting some good exercise, but simple enough that the kids can mostly keep up.
Put your elbows on the floor, raise up on the tips of your toes, and keep your back straight and your abs tight in a line. Hold that position as long as you can. 30 seconds is pretty good if your kids can hold it that long. (We’re doing planks in the photo above.)
Put your feet a shoulders’ width apart and do deep knee bends as if you’re sitting down on an invisible box. Put your arms out. Make sure your knees don’t extend past your toes.
Keep your abs tight and your back straight; you can do this with a straight or bent knee.
Sit-ups, but not all the way from floor to knee. Just curl your chest toward your knees. (These are called “curl-ups” at my kids’ school.)
Take a step. Touch your back knee to the floor, and make sure your front knee doesn’t extend past the toes.
6. Side leg raises
Just like Jane Fonda used to do! Keep your legs straight.
These are pretty tough for me, and a whole sequence of them will really get your heart racing. Squat, then put your hands to the ground. Kick your legs straight back behind you, landing on your toes. Then do a push-up, bring your legs back underneath you, and jump straight up off the floor. That’s one burpee.
8. Mountain Climbers
Start in a push-up position, then alternate bringing one foot at a time forward toward your armpit and then extend it back out. It almost looks like a stationary bear crawl.
9. Butterfly Kicks
Lie on your back. Keeping your abs tight, raise your feet just barely off the floor and flutter-kick them. This one makes my girls giggle, which then makes their abs loosey-goosey, which makes it hard for them to do the exercise. But it’s fun all the same.
This one’s like a sit-up, but in the shape of a V. Lie back, extend your arms out above your head on the floor, then lift your legs and raise your torso and hands until you make a V. Reach toward your feet, then back down again.
We always do a warm-up to get everyone limbered-up and ready. Maybe high knees, or booty kicks, pretend jump roping, or jumping jacks. Then we just mix it up. We’ll let each kid assemble a workout by picking three of those exercises. We’ll do 10 of each one and try to finish a circuit: three sets of those three exercises. Or sometimes we do all of them for a minute each, at our own pace.
Most importantly, I don’t push them in any way. I just want them to have fun doing it, so then they’ll always want to keep going.
With a circuit-style workout, they can also look forward to a change to the next exercise. Nobody gets bored doing the same thing for a long period of time. And, of course, we always have some music blasting. Music always makes exercise more fun.
For more information about kids and exercise, check out this great article at kidshealth.org.