How to get active with your kids
1. Make time for family fitness
Once you have children, finding spare time to be active becomes difficult. No longer is the Saturday morning jog or Tuesday evening yoga class so easy to fit into your schedule. But making time for physical activity is important for you and your kids. “Children naturally want to be physically active, however, time, convenience and location can sometimes limit their ability to move around and play outdoors. Being physically active from an early age not only helps to set good health habits, it can also improve their sociability and interaction with other kids” says exercise scientist Johann Ruys.
“Physical activity is important for children’s continued growth and development. Spending time doing physical activity with your children is a great way to have quality family time, and you will both feel the long-term health benefits!” he says. Find out how you can incorporate more exercise into your family’s routine, no matter how old your children are.
2. Avoid excess screen time
From TVs and iPads to computer games, kids’ attentions are being absorbed by screens. Try to limit your kid’s screen time to no more than 2 hours per day. It’s best to break this up into shorter periods across the day as well, rather than to use it in one large chunk.
3. Get into a team sports
Allowing your children to participate in a variety of sports from a young age lays the foundation for having an active life as an adult. “Learning fundamental motor skills like throwing, jumping, running, skipping and kicking is important because these skills are critical to overall success when playing sport as a teenager and in the early adult years,” explains Dr Ian Gillam, exercise physiologist at Exercise & Sports Science Australia.
Beyond physical agility, sport also hones your child’s social skills. “I love that team sport teaches my kids about sharing, being a good sportsman and working together as a team,” says Karen Gee, mother of five and winner of the Mrs Australia Globe in 2011. “It’s educating them for bigger things when they grow older,” she says.
How to get moving during 0–4 years
1. Push your child's pram
If you have a baby or young toddler, fitting in fitness is as simple as going for a walk. Investing in a three-wheeler running stroller is the key. “I go out every morning for a 10 kilometre walk with my babies in the pram,” says Pru Islip, 32, mum to six-month-old twin girls. “I get a good workout and they get a good nap.”
Our tip: Toss a rug in the stroller and lay it out when you stop at the park after your jog. Do some crunches while baby has a dose of tummy time.
2. Lift your child
Don’t just pick up your children for a cuddle, use them for some resistance training. Lisa Entwisle, 39, a mother of two and post-natal fitness instructor, drew on her own experience to create babyweights, a flashcard-based exercise program that uses your baby to increase muscle strength. “Babyweights offer upper, middle and lower body exercises, as well as stretching, to give a well-rounded workout,” she explains. Find out more at babyweights.com.au. Or why not try our mum and bub workout.
Our tip: When you find yourself pacing up and down the hallway with a sleepless baby, add a few squats or walking lunges while you pace.
3. Tag team
As your child gets older and learns to walk, you may find it hard to keep him or her in the stroller for the duration of your jog. There are plenty of mum-and-bub groups that provide a nanny service while you work out, but an easier option is to head to the park with your partner and let Dad play with the kids while you go for a walk, then swap roles so he has the opportunity to exercise too.
Our tip: A day out at the local swimming pool can be fun for everyone – take it in turns for one parent to play with the children while the other one does laps.
How to get moving during 5-12 years
1. Follow Mr Fitman
Travis Fitzpatrick, 41, is passionate about kids’ health. Dressing in a Superman-style outfit and calling himself Mr Fitman, he travels around Australia educating school children on the importance of “activating” daily and eating well. With his wife, Mrs Fitman, 39 (also known as Heidi), Travis has four children aged 10, 7, 5 and 4. “We regularly get outside and have water fights in the summer, which involve running around and having a great time with our children,” says Heidi. “Or, if one of us goes for an eight kilometre run, we come back after six and run the last two with the kids,” she says.
Our tip: Find a nearby park with a bike track and jog alongside your kids while they ride their bikes.
How to get moving during 13-17 years
1. Boxing fit
“Boxing is a fun pastime for kids, an efficient way to work out for adults and an edgy, rebellious activity for teenagers,” says Patrick Moore, creator of Boxout and a professional boxing trainer. Ioni Doherty, 39, and her family have found boxing to be the ideal workout. “On the weekends, my husband will hold the pads for me, and the kids will have a play around as well,” she says. When her husband is at work, Ioni uses Patrick’s audio workouts. “I can fit in a great workout in a short amount of time without having to leave the house,” she says.
Our tip: Create a circuit route for the whole family in the backyard. Stations might include jumping jacks, shadow boxing, skipping rope and sit-ups. Set a timer to go off every three minutes, then move onto the next stage.
2. Get off the sidelines
Yvette Mayes, 39, is a mother of two boys aged 13 and 16. She always planned on running again, but it wasn’t until she picked up a copy of the WW magazine, with a story on learning to run five kilometres in 10 weeks, that she got started. “My boys kept asking me where I was up to, and one day they came with me,” she says. From there, things snowballed. Not only can Yvette easily run five kilometres, she now runs 10 kilometres every weekend, often accompanied by her kids. “Running with my boys has taught me not to try and fix everything, to just listen and they will talk,” she says. And now, after watching her sons do Little Athletics for years, Yvette has joined Masters Athletics. “We go together on a Saturday and decide which events we want to enter,” she says. “It’s so much fun.”
Our tip: Instead of going out to the movies, take your kids for a night out at the bowling alley or to laser tag one weekend.
3. Make it challenging
“Kids who play video games get addicted because they want to beat their score or get to a higher level,” says David Norman, CEO of Eye Fitness, a company providing interactive gym equipment to schools, gyms and football clubs. The equipment from Eye Fitness encourages a similar response and helps foster self-motivation. This concept can work when getting fit at home, too. “Come up with different ideas to challenge each other,” suggests Norman. For instance, set a goal of running around the block twice in under 10 minutes. Or create an obstacle course – scooter around the park, do 10 sit-ups, run up a hill, then sprint to the finish line. Use a timer to try and beat your times.
Our tip: Consider going rock climbing or doing a spin class with your teen. These activities provide feedback in terms of how high you can both climb or how far you can ride.
4. Set long-term goals
Set long-term goals, “Find an upcoming event or set yourself a challenge that you and your teens can aim to complete together”, says Ruys. “Plan an overnight hike, look for an upcoming fun-run or get yourself ready for a skiing weekend over winter – the possibilities are endless.” Doing activities together also gives you time to bond in a fun and effortless way, rather than a forced, deliberate way. Plan a weekend hike a few months in advance, then train for it by walking together on local nature walks.
Our tip: Enter a fun run and train together in the weeks beforehand.