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A father who has his son on his shoulders.

I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking exercise is something grown ups “have” to do. For many adults the process of starting an exercise program can seem monumental and looked upon with dread. Isn’t starting anything always the hardest part? And often, adults don’t start exercising because they sincerely want to for the love of fitness, but because of health concerns or to lose excess weight. But if a child grows up with fitness as an integral part of his or her life, there’s no need to start. As parents we can remove what is most difficult about being fit: getting started.

When my daughters were very young I became aware that fitness needed to be included in parenting. For fitness to be a family value in our home, I had to make fitness part of their world, too.

In the book, Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel 2011) an entire secret is devoted to mentoring. If you’re a parent, whether you’re aware of it or not, you are your children’s “fitness mentor.” When parents exercise, their children are more likely to grow up to be active adults. I think we can raise those odds when we also exercise together.  Sure I still find time to exercise on my own, but I also seek out ways for my kids to join me when possible.

To that extent I’ve become a firm believer in the family fitness triad: being a fitness mentor to my children through my own workouts, helping my children discover their own fitness passions and finding time to be active together.

Need some ideas to include kids in your workouts? Here are five ideas for family fitness:

1)   Is your child or children taking lessons? Sign yourself up, too. Whether it’s swimming, rock climbing, martial arts, or tennis, learning or perfecting the same skills that your child is working on gives you a common fitness goal—great for conversation at the dinner table.

2)   Do you workout with a personal trainer? If you have teens or tweens, schedule a group session together every once in awhile. Request a workout that you can repeat together at home or the gym.

3)   Is there an upcoming event you can train together for as a family? If your children are too young to compete, include them in the training process by telling them about your event and your preparation. Simulate an event for them at home or in the park.

4)   If you have kids who play in the childcare center while you workout, take advantage of programs like Kids Play, which is a great introduction to “group fitness” for kids. Also, after your workout is over, take 10 or 15 minutes to shoot baskets or engage in a different kind of active play in the kids area before you leave.

5)   Share your favorite workout with your kids. They probably know how much you love Zumba or Boot Camp or (fill in the blank with your favorite activity). Create a pint-sized workout for them so they can see what it is you do when you go workout and why you like it so much. The ulterior motive, of course, is that they’ll grow up to be your favorite workout partner.

Thoughts to share?

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