How to keep your family fit and active

Boy playing cricket
After long days at work and school, exercise is often the last thing on our minds, yet it's crucial for our health. So what can we do to keep active as a family and pack everyday life with easy, enjoyable exercise opportunities?
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The word ‘exercise’ is enough to make most people groan, children and adults alike. We know we could be doing more to be physically active and encourage our children to exercise, but with hectic lifestyles and the ever-growing temptation of screen time, fitness can easily be forgotten. 

Benefits of keeping fit 

James Metcalf, a member of the British Gymnastics Association, has taught children and adults for seven years from basic ‘tumble tots’ to regional level. He says, “I think children should exercise as it has too many benefits not to! Physically it burns fat, develops balance, strength, flexibility, stamina. Mentally it can reduce the likelihood of depression, boost confidence and can lead to wider skills in socialising, analysing problems, leadership and goal setting. For a parent trying to equip their child with the best tools to tackle life, physical exercise is a great asset.”

Based on recent UK Government recommendationschildren should do 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per day across the week.This can include physical education, active travel, after-school activities, play and sports. Children should break up sedentary periods with at least 'light physical activity.' 

Dietary guidelines are, of course, important to health and fitness too, but improving physical activity is a great place to start and can then be combined with eating healthier foods.

Activities for family-fitness days 

Swimming

Don't panic – this doesn’t have to be endless lengths of front crawl!

  • Find a pool with water chutes, flumes, waves and other fun features and the children will have hours of fun. Most adults like an excuse to slide down a water chute, too.
  • Bring inflatable balls to throw around, a set of rings to collect from the bottom of the pool, and anything else you can use to create fun games.
  • Get imaginative, and competitive. Play variations of the game called Tag, or see who can hold on to the edge of the pool and kick their legs for the longest (very tiring, but great for the muscles!). 

Walking

  • Combine a walk with a nature trail or take a spotter’s book which the children can use to tick off things they find.
  • Don’t be put off by bad weather, children love splashing in puddles as long as they have the right clothes to keep them warm and dry.

Dance

Dance is not just for girls! In recent years it has become very popular with boys, too – anyone can do it (almost) anywhere! 

  • There's a wide variety of styles to choose from so have a look around and see which one sparks an interest with your child. 
  • Some children can be shy about dancing in front of others but there are some fantastic YouTube tutorials on an array of dance styles that you can try out in the comfort of your own home. 
  • Video games like Just Dance are another great way to engage children in something fun and active without it feeling like a chore. 

Active days out

There are lots of exciting days out you can have together.

  • Try a climbing wall, ice skating, indoor skydiving or skate boarding.
  • There are a few indoor snow slopes in the UK where everyone can have a go at skiing or snowboarding.
  • Many horse-riding schools offer family packs which are suitable for all abilities.
  • If that's a little above your price range, why not get on your bikes and go cycling for the day? 

Team sports

  • If your child enjoys kicking, throwing or hitting a ball about then look for local sports clubs for football, cricket and hockey. Training sessions are at least once a week and it’s a chance to make new friends and have fun too.
  • Create a family team and split up to play games like football together. This can be done even if there's only two of you and you can take it in turns to be goalkeeper.