Dr. Erin Nitschke by Dr. Erin Nitschke
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Family time is precious and coveted. Between work, social engagements, school, homework and kids’ many extracurricular activities, the days can feel hectic. The frenetic activity of each day presents a challenge when it comes to focused family time and a desire to achieve fitness goals. Is it possible to strike a healthy balance? Try combining family time with fitness fun. Family Fitness Day is nationally observed during the month of September. Here are some creative ways to infuse family time with physical activity.

Make it a priority. There are many priorities in life—physical activity should be one of them. If you make fitness a priority, your kids are more likely to do the same. Carve out 30 minutes on several days of the week for “fun fitness time.” Take an after-dinner stroll or engage in a Saturday afternoon game of soccer in the park. Take turns choosing the “activity” days and contribute ideas for what to do.

Play. A child’s natural language is play. If you have younger children who aren’t ready for organized sports or other activities requiring more advanced motor skills, engage in active play. Take a trip to the park, go swimming, plant a garden, play tag or chase your toddler around the yard (or the house if the weather is unfriendly).

Make yard work a game. Not every chore has to be just that—a chore. Turn a mundane job into a game of “who can finish their task first.” Fall is the perfect time to rake leaves (and jump into the pile), mow the lawn and prune the landscaping. The same strategy can be applied to winter tasks such as shoveling the sidewalk or driveway—encourage kids to build a snow tunnel or fort.

Go on a scavenger hunt. This is great for older children. Create a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Make a list of items to find or collect, pair up and see who can collect all the items the fastest. Have a small family? Invite some friends to join in the fun.

Take a nature discovery walk. With all the technology in our lives, many of us don’t spend nearly enough time outside. Taking a nature walk with your family allows you to get some fresh air, explore the surroundings and learn something new. Invest in a book about the local trees, flowers or birds in your area and take a walk on a trail or walking path to see what you can discover.

Schedule a weekly game or sport night. This is great if your kids enjoy organized activities. Set aside an evening that is devoted to a family-friendly game of volleyball, soccer, football or other activity of choice. Take turns as a family deciding which game or sport to play each week.

Train for an event together. Training for an upcoming event such as a 5K or cycling race is a fantastic way to get fit together and provide a source of motivation for your family members.

Dance. Who doesn’t love music? And what’s better than moving to the music? Have a family dance party. You can introduce your kids to some of your favorite tunes and they can do the same for you.

Regardless of how you choose to encourage family-centered fitness, the goal is twofold. First, to spend quality time together as a family. Second, to teach your family that fitness isn’t to be perceived as a chore, but rather a path to a healthy lifestyle that can be traveled together.

Are you interested in helping individuals and families cultivate healthy, active lifestyles? Jumpstart your career as an ACE Certified Personal Trainer!  

Ends tomorrow!