Family Fitness During the School Year

As the school year starts, children and families often have busy schedules that leave less time for physical activity. While shorter days and cooling nights may not provide you with as much time for outdoor play, there are many creative ways to get you and your family moving before and after school.

Start your day with stretches: After rising, the whole family can do simple stretches together to provide energy to start the day. Begin with three deep breaths, raising your arms high towards the sky on the inhale, and lowering them on the exhale. Next, bend forward at the waist and see who can touch their toes. Finish by combining both exercises: reach high to the sky with both hands, then lower your arms and bend forward at the waist to touch your toes. Have your children teach you some of their favorite stretches, and incorporate these in the morning stretch time.

Host a family physical activity challenge: Challenge members of your family to do fun and simple activities like jumping jacks, leg kicks, push ups, and dancing. Record each family member’s progress for a week and then choose a family champion. Next week, start with a different set of activities and see who else can become a family champion.

Take a family walk: Walking is one of the easiest ways to get physical activity. In the morning, families can walk together to school or to the bus stop. In the evening, you can take a walk around the block. On the weekends, walk to your local market, restaurant, or favorite shops. If you are driving, park your car farther away from stores so you can take nice walk to the entrance--ask your children to count how many steps it takes to get from car to the door.

Participate in family fitness nights: Many schools offer weekly family fitness nights that are free of charge. Check with your child’s school to see what activities are available.

Create a family “half-time” rule: If you are sitting or inactive for a half hour, take a “half-time” break and walk around the house, go up and down the stairs, walk outside to the mailbox, or do ten jumping jacks. Have your children set timers so they know when to expect half-time, and have them choose the activity.

Visit your community recreation center: Many cities have public recreation centers that offer facilities for residents to use. Most rec centers offer open gym times for everyone to use in addition to fitness classes for adults and youth. Take the whole family to the rec center and explore what is available.

Take commercial dance breaks: While watching your favorite show, take a dance break during commercials. Have the music ready to go and try a different dance move or style each break. Have your children choose the music and you choose the moves, then switch!

Go on a bike ride: Late afternoon and weekends are the perfect time to enjoy a bike ride through your favorite park.

These are just a few ideas to help keep you and your family active once the summer fun comes to an end. Challenge your family to come up with new ideas to help you stay active all year long!

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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall