With our increasing reliance on screens for entertainment, education and employment, we’re fully aware of how important it is to get outdoors and be physically active. But with their growing bodies and minds, it’s a necessity for children.
But why is exercising together as a family the answer?
Exercise helps build discipline and endurance
Parenting blogger Jules Kynaston says she’s prioritised getting active with her kids as she wants them to grow up with the view that exercise can be fun and good for you at the same time. “We try to include our kids in outdoor activities – we go for walks together as a family and they enjoy playing on the fields while Dad plays touch rugby,” says Jules. Exercise is not only important for their muscular and skeletal development, it also “helps them build discipline and endurance, and develops their social skills,” says Jules.
Exercise teahces teamwork
Personal trainer Ashleigh Iovino, who has a special interest in women’s and mothers’ fitness, says the benefits of exercising together as a family are numerous. “Aside from keeping the family fit and healthy, your children will learn important teamwork and communication skills,” she says. Ashleigh explains it also provides meaningful bonding time and helps establish lifelong healthy habits. “My advice would be to experiment until you find those activities that the whole family enjoys. Before you know it, you’ll be having fun and exercising without even realising it!”
Exercise lifts your mood
It doesn’t have to be extremely rigorous exercise every day either. Parenting blogger Nikki Lincoln says her family have a tradition of walking together as a family every Sunday − usually after lunch for about an hour. “Our five-year-old gets cabin fever and getting out of the house as a family, enjoying the fresh air and being in a scenic environment makes a huge difference to her mood,” says Nikki. “If we don’t get that bit of exercise in, she’s almost always prone to tantrums, which has a ripple effect on the rest of us. It’s no exaggeration that our family’s exercise time is vital to our sanity!”
What’s true for five-year-olds is true for adults, too. Exercising in the outdoors is proven to lift our mood, increase our happiness and even boost self-esteem. It’s also generally a more vigorous workout if you exercise outside, as you’re exposed to the elements − whether it’s the wind on your face or a steep hill you didn’t expect.
Now that we know all the benefits, how do we get the whole family involved and outside? It’s not as simple as saying, “Go run around the courtyard”. Kids need activities that challenge and delight them, and tempt them into the great outdoors. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Riding bikes. This is always a fun one and the trick is to find a safe and convenient place to ride together as a family. Maybe it’s a bike park with ramps, or a promenade with ocean views. These tend to be better options than riding on the streets, as very young kids may not know yet how to handle dealing with traffic.
- Who knew climbing trees could be this fun? Most of the major South African cities have some form of ziplining available. Zipping from one tree to the next improves coordination, let’s them feel independent and also gives you a break, as there are typically assistants on standby to help the young ones. It’s an excellent workout for all ages, and loads of fun.
- Family yoga. From doing yoga while your child is in the womb, to fun classes for toddlers where they pretend to be lions or snakes, yoga has a wealth of benefits for kids of all ages (and it’s even more fun when done outdoors). Grab your mat, smear on the sunscreen and take along your sense of humour − you may not be able to hold the most challenging of poses while running after a toddler, but who knows, your little on may surprise you as you both emerge from the class more peaceful and focused..
- And finally, why not try a fun obstacle course? The Fedhealth IMPI challenge is held throughout the country and even features a special race for kids aged five to 10 years. It’s a 1km trail running loop with smaller supervised obstacles that your kids will love.
Attempting any of these outdoor activities together will show your children that exercise doesn’t have to be dull, and you’ll make wonderful memories in the process.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.