The internet is full of fitness celebrities who manage to run marathons a week after giving birth. Those of us mere mortals can be forgiven for feeling a bit under pressure to bounce back to model-like proportions soon after becoming mums.
Now whatever the reality is behind these internet ‘fit-moms’ (extreme motivation, genetic predisposition, psychological condition, or lots of extra helping hands), the long and short is that the overwhelming majority of us will not ever reach their level of body ‘beautiful’.
I feel – whilst having an aspiration is admirable – I’d rather provide people with practical family based suggestions that make you feel good, rather than a punishing daily workout schedule which is unachievable in the big scheme of things.
So here are my 10 tips for an active family.
1. Afternoon walks
With daylight savings just around the corner this will be even more achievable as we have more sunlight in the evenings. My daughter loves these walks and most evenings when I get home from work we try to head out for 30 minutes around our little block.
As kids get older they can take a scooter, trike or bike. Depending on what time I make it home we either do a walk before dinner (sometimes whilst dinner is sitting in the crock pot) or after dinner – then head home for a bath. Try not to think of the obstacles, or decide against it because you only have 15 mins.
Ten or fifteen minutes of fresh air and a few extra steps is better than none at all and it just becomes a good habit.
2. Obstacle course
Obstacle courses are an all-weather, all-age activity. You can set up pillows, a broom held up by two baskets (for crawling under), or held up by two bowls (for jumping over). There can be toys as markers for where you need to crawl/lunge/skip/run to.
Pieces of paper with numbers can be laid out to get the kids to hop in numerical order. All you need is your imagination and some items you might have around the home to make this fun.
Remember – you do the course too!
3. Join a sport or club that everyone can be part of
This can be a great all weather activity too. Tennis, swimming, golf, hockey, soccer, running – are all sports where you can join a local club and get the kids involved too.
4. Field races
After hours and in the weekend there is usually a practically deserted local school close by. Also in NZ we are lucky to have parks and beaches dotted throughout most areas of the country.
So choose your local green (or sand) space and set up a race. My husband and I turn it into a HIIT workout by setting up cones 100 – 200m apart. You sprint to the first cone and back to the start, then to the second cone, and back to the start.
Continue on through to cone 5 THEN you can go backwards making the distance shorter and shorter. Think shuttle runs. It's a great way to tire kids out!
You could always have a little prize at some of the cones for them, such as a sticker, or tiny toy.
5. Lion hunts
Pretend play hunts with little kids are a great way to get them moving. You could put on the “We’re going on a lion/bear hunt” song, then act it out in the living room. Or you could make up your own animal hunt.
You could hide one of your children’s soft animal toys somewhere in the house or garden and then go on a hunt to find it.
6. Hopscotch or skipping
Of course hopscotch has a wider age target, whereas skipping is really reserved for school aged children. Whichever you use this can be both activity based and a learning exercise.
With your pre-schoolers, hopscotch can be a great way to learn numbers or letters, as you get them to jump through the alphabet or 1 – 10 (or 20). With skipping you can shout out a word and get your kids to spell it as they skip.
Or they could teach you some skipping rhymes whilst you have a go!
7. Indoor Activities
Indoor ice skating rinks, snow slopes, bowling alleys, mini put, trampolines, and play centres are great ways for kids to keep active and most allow parents to join in to.
8. Bush or beach walks
An awesome free activity. If you have younger kids google short bush walks in your areas, or check for ones which are pram friendly. Download a native plant and birdlife sheet and get your kids to tick off as many as they can see.
If they are careful they could take a small leaf or flower sample for a scrapbook of native species (just be careful there are no plant diseases you risk spreading by doing so – sometimes photos will be better). If you head to the beach you can do similar games; collecting items on a list, taking photos of your expedition, breaking into a game of beach cricket, or hunting out a secluded swimming or fishing spot.
9. Fruit picking
My memories of going to Grandma and Grandpa’s in Tauranga as a child are littered with fruit picking expeditions. Obviously you want to pick more than you eat! However this is a great way to get some steps in, as well as some cheap fruit!
10. Boogie on down
I saved my favourite for last. Sometimes the easiest thing is to pop on some music, push the furniture back, and free dance. For the competitive families out there you can break into teams, do some choreography, and then put on a show to see whose dance number is better.
Kids verse adults, boys verse girls, oldest teamed with youngest, doesn’t matter what combination you just want to have fun!
Whatever you do the best thing to remember is that kids should be active for the vast majority of the day. It is recommended that children have no more than 30 – 60 minutes of screen time each day. This is a maximum – no screen time is even better!
But let’s be real, screen time is very helpful when you’re a parent, and let’s face it kids’ programmes can be fun to watch and often have great learnings from them (think Clifford the big red dog, Curious George, and the Cat in the Hat to name a few).
But be strategic with when your kids have access to screen devices. Whilst you’re cooking dinner, on a long car trip, running errands, or on an airplane are completely understandable times to use some distraction.
The reality is that for most adults, our lives are pretty sedentary. It really does not take much to pop some activity into your day. Some active games and a quick burst of energy outside, with something longer on the weekend, will do the trick!