Everyone’s first port of call when trying to get fit is usually to invest in a gym membership, which shows endeavour, a element of commitment but in truth sadly rarely gets utilised over a sustained period.
Children fare considerably worse, not being eligible for most Gym memberships under a certain age. Indeed in the majority of instances parents tend to rely upon the school to exercise their children, thinking back to their own time at school and forgetting that a huge raft of school playing fields were sold off and the Government’s promised “post Olympic” sport legacy for children, failing miserably.
Fortunately there are incipient signs of a raised public consciousness about obese children, an appreciation about the lack of school sporting facilities and the welcome start of some long over government regulation on saturated fats and the like. Therefore I do believe we will see the start of a positive trend in looking back to childhood games and getting the whole family out of the house to do some exercise.
Even when I was young, I spent a large majority of my time engaging in outdoor activities - for example, bike riding and rollerblading. I was also lucky enough to be able to participate in a number of different team sports whether that was signing up to local rugby club, engaging in after school activities like judo or going on family camping and cycling trips.
So aside from all the positive family bonding benefits, the following suggestions are to help not only your children but also you, improve on fitness levels and abandon the couch, the games console and the junk food. These are all fun and effective, as well as being money saving alternatives to the gym.
Obviously the whole family group stems from a number of different generations.
So if you are in your 50’s i.e. being children from the 60’s – good old British bull-dog, tag, hop-scotch, red rover and hide-and-seek would have been the order of the day.
If you are now in your 40’s i.e. being children from the 70’s, you would have been into skipping, roller skating, hula hoops and severely dodgy break-dancing.
If you are now in your 30’s you are children on the 80’s, which was a time of skateboarding, roller disco’s, BMX, ice skating and gymnastics.
Of course if you’re a child of the 90’s you would find yourself with the micro-scooters, trampolining, laser quest and snowboarding on a dry ski slope.
I have chosen the best of these, not necessarily all based on ease of operation but all with their specific fitness benefits firmly to the fore, and those I believe we should actively bring back to help get the whole family involved in exercise and social activities.
This is a bit of a left-field activity I admit. Although for the sheer value of seeing your Mum bouncing on a trampoline trying not to fall off, it is definitely a well worth family activity. It is extremely hard work but also a lot of fun.
I would recommend going to some gymnastics or trampolining clubs and getting involved that way, to ensure your safety and in order to learn the techniques. This has a full-body conditioning element with huge fitness benefit.
Skipping works your legs, your calves, your quads as well as your cardiovascular system. It’s a great exercise widely used by many sports people, requiring an entire body hit of conditioning. It is also excellent for coordination and is relatively low impact on your joints; obviously this is dependant on how good your skipping is. This is something which you can do anywhere, any time. You can treat it as a Tabata training; 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off; doing this 8 times relatively quickly. Or, you can go for slower more endurance style with blocks of 3 minutes at a time. My suggestions would be to take the dog for a walk in the park; let them off the lead and then do a few rounds whilst they are off exploring. After time you will be able to see some benefits of toning and also some weight management, with an increase in general fitness.
If you have ever sat on the sofa on a Sunday wondering what you can do with the family, then roller blading could be the answer for you. Rollerblading again will work your leg muscles and depending on for how long and how fast you go, you will build some body conditioning too. If you are doing it for the first time make sure you wear the appropriate protection to safeguard against any bruised elbows and knees. It is great way of getting around and having fun with the family.
A minimum of 45 minutes at a time of rollerblading with the family is a great way to start building some exercise into your week. Please don’t forget to wear protective padding and a helmet. You’ll be surprised how rusty you will be to start with.
There is a massive growing trend in bicycle riding both on and off road. This is the perfect activity for the whole family to indulge in. If you haven’t got a bike, aside from hiring, you may need to make an initial outlay but it is something you will revisit repeatedly and the cost will amortise down with each usage.
Riding is great for lower body toning and of course offers a huge fitness element. If you have any sporting injuries or are slightly long in the tooth then this is a great way of getting out of the house and having some fun with the family. This is probably the most popular family fitness activity and with smart phone applications like ‘Strava Cycling’, allows you to compete against other cyclists in your area. The perfect incentive for those of you who are competitive.
I would say a minimum of 30 minutes a day to start building a good base for yourself and keeping the whole family in shape, is the ideal place to start.
As we are approaching the festive season, what better activity to get the family in shape and to have fun than a spot of ice-skating. There are plenty of locations around the country for the whole family to get involved so there is no excuse.
Ice-skating can be hard work. It has a full body focus but will particularly target the legs and depending on how vigorously you do it, can also hit the cardiovascular system. You can go with the family or take classes to different styles of ice-skating, e.g. racing, ice hockey, and figure skating. This is a perfect fun winter outing for everyone.
As we are in the season of big lunches and over-indulgence there is nothing like getting out of the house with all the family, irrespective of age and going for a long country walk or a brisk hike. For those whose fitness levels are not necessarily their number one priority, this is a great way to get started, even Grandma can get involved!
An hour’s walk over different gradients will raise the heart rate and help to burn off some of calories. Just make sure you have the appropriate supportive footwear and clothing on when you do so.
Now this might not be for everyone, though the kids will certainly love it. Laser Quest is great family activity, which is a lot harder than you may think. Embracing the activity and moving about after teaming up with your family or against your family, will result in a good cardio workout, as well as team building with loved ones.
If you want to take things up a level then a half-day or full day’s paintballing is extremely tiring yet fun and gets the whole family outside. I’m not certain you would find your Mother over eager to get shot with a paint ball but you never know!
Another year around activity that is great for the family is swimming, whether that’s involves going to a fun leisure centre to spend a couple of hours swimming around and going down the slides, or taking things a bit more seriously and doing some proper lengths swimming. This is a great way of starting to get some exercise into your daily life.
It is brilliant for those who are really unfit and need a gentle start. Some stay swimming is the very best form of exercise you can take and I for one would not necessarily argue with that viewpoint.
Getting out of the house and indulging in any sort of exercise, which raises the heart-rate is great. Many small activities can be greatly beneficial overall. Each one of these things I listed can be taken to varying degree of seriousness and can all be utilised as part of a fitness regime.
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