Keeping Fit as a Family

Physical activity is essential to helping little ones grow into healthier, happier and even smarter people, but how can we make exercise a fun, family-friendly activity?

Whether it’s school lunches waiting to be packed or laundry piling up, it’s a struggle to make it to the gym, let alone get your kids active.

We know that exercise helps prevent health issues like obesity, heart problems and asthma, but a Georgia Health Sciences University study showed that kids who exercised 40 minutes a day improved their IQ scores by an average of four points and performed better at maths tasks. If that isn’t compelling enough to get your brood moving, research from the Trimbos Institute for Mental Health and Addiction in the Netherlands showed that teenagers who exercised had better self-esteem, and what parent doesn’t want their kids to grow into happier, more confident adults?

According to the South African Medical Research Council, 13% of kids are overweight, and it’s an uphill battle to shed that weight going into adulthood. Joburg-based physiotherapist, Diane Teles, has some great family-friendly ideas for incorporating fitness into your routine. Not only are these fun, healthy ways to bond, but they can also help you save on gym fees!

  1. Walk, run or cycle

Teles recommends getting some fresh air at one of the Parkruns organised across the country. These 5km runs are free, relaxed and welcome kids (even those still in prams). You could also take part in a charity race, teaching your kids the value of exercise and helping others. If your family is more into cycling, Teles suggests a local training venue such as the PWC bike park in Bryanston (Joburg), so you can avoid taking your kids out on the road.

  • Awesome obstacle courses

Kids will love getting dirty while navigating inflatable slides and monkey bars. It’s a jungle gym on steroids! They’ll love seeing their parents covered in mud and hopping through tyres. Teles says this helps your family “build trust…while getting fitter and stronger.” Why not sign up for the obstacle course races held annually called the Fedhealth IMPI Challenge? Kids as young as six can join and it’s free for all Fedhealth members.

  • Backyard fun

You don’t have to leave the house to get fit. With just 20 minutes a day, you can play a quick game of family soccer or cool down playing pool volleyball. Teles suggests trying a mini-tournament to add excitement.

  • CrossFit

You might think this is only for burly men lifting tyres, but CrossFit has some family-friendly programmes too. You can learn the basics at a number of CrossFit gyms around the country that you’ll then be able to do it anywhere, anytime.

You could also consider family yoga – it helps kids learn how to relax and focus, while also building strength and stamina. If yoga isn’t your thing, why not let loose with an impromptu dance party? The kids will love making fun of Dad’s 80s dance moves!

Whatever exercise you choose, the most important thing is to get moving and have fun together. Not only will you build memories, but healthy habits that will stay with your children for the rest of their lives.

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