Despite what the obviously rehearsed viral videos of super-fit families would lead you to believe, exercising with kids isn't all burpees and big smiles. In fact, depending on the age of your children and everyone's fitness levels, getting the family together for a sweat 'sesh can be more of an exercise for your patience than any part of your body.And if this is the case, you're probably going about the whole family fitness experience the wrong way.
The truth is, while many kids will like the idea of working out with their parents in theory, in practice, the regimented structure of most adult workouts won't appeal to children.
It won't appeal to children because children aren't born knowing how to do a squat or a push-up with perfect form, so learning these basics can be frustrating.
It won't appeal to children because children don't have the attention spans that most adults do for prolonged, repetitive routines.
Most importantly, standard workouts won't appeal to children because they will be less motivated by the end result e.g. losing fat and gaining muscle) and more focused on the immediate benefits--namely, having fun and being with YOU!
With these points in mind, here are some of our best tips for exercising with your kids. These tidbits of workout wisdom are backed by BodyRock Trainers and moms Jessie and Tammy, so you can embark on your foray into family fitness with confidence that these strategies are tried, tested and true.
Jessie and Tammy are also the trainers of ourTrailBlazer series on BR+. Designed for moms, by moms, this series features short and effective workouts that you can smash out in under 30 minutes and get on with your busy day.
Whether you want to grab a quick workout before the kids get up, during nap time, while the kids are momentarily entertained by whatever inane show has replaced Barney, or you want to invite your kids to train with you, these workouts are short enough to be realistically doable and fun enough to keep anyone motivated.
Try the whole series for FREE when you sign up now forBR+. In addition to TrailBlazer, we have thousands of other workouts for all fitness levels.
This tip is for all you parents who get frustrated when you workout with your kids because they are interrupting your workout. If you’re looking to workout without your kids, then you need to do it when they are occupied (i.e. asleep or otherwise safely distracted). If you’re looking to workout as a family, you can’t get upset that the kids are interrupting you, or that you need to stop and help them, or that they want you to watch them.
This is family life! And that’s what family time is like!
Pro-tip from Jessie:
“EXPECTATIONS…do not be mistaken, moving your body is always a great thing and something is far better than nothing BUT in my experience, working out with my children is not the same experience or quality of workout as when by myself. This fact is okay..and the sooner we accept it the better! Set realistic exceptions before you begin the work, this will help with frustration and patience in the moment.”
Kids are agile and flexible, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to do ninja tuck jumps without hurting themselves. Most adults can’t do ninja tuck jumps! Make sure the moves are safe, and appeal to a range of fitness levels.
Squats, lunges, running on the stop, planks, shoulder circles and jumping jacks are examples of great moves to include in a family-friendly workout.
Pro-tip from Jessie:
“Use appropriate movements and movement patterns based on the age of your child/children. For example if you are working out with your four year old, compound movements will likely be too difficult to follow. I find it best to mimic the types of movements they do naturally in their daily lives. Using the same example, a four year old would probably do a lot of jumping, skipping, running and rolling in a gym class, so try to incorporate those moves into the workout.”
You’re taking the time to set a great example for your kids by being active, so also take the time to make sure they’re doing the exercises correctly. Incorrect form can lead to acute and chronic injury, and if your child relates exercise to unbearable pain, they aren’t going to want to continue.
For example, while squats are a basic move, most children can’t squat properly at first. A quick way to teach them correct form is to have them sit on a chair and stand up. When they are sitting back and down as they should be with their knees behind their toes, then you can try it without the chair.
Nothing motivates children like their parents’ pride. You may know you’re proud of your kids, but they may not. Give them constant, enthusiastic praise--not only when they are doing a great job but also when they are struggling.
If you realize your child cannot perform a move, be prepared to modify it. These modifications will keep them from getting discouraged and giving up.
For example, your child may have difficulty with jumping jacks. If this is the case, slow the jack down until they get the coordination. Same with jump rope. Slow the movement down until the coordination kicks in.
Learn more about how to teach your kids to skiphere.
Especially at first, brevity is key to keeping your kids interested. Maybe you have them join you for the first or last 10 minutes of your workout, or maybe you do a short 10-minute workout just for them. The point is small, easy to achieve goals lead to long-term success, so don’t overwhelm your kids with too much too soon.
Shorter workouts will be easy for them to smash, and will keep them motivated for a longer.
Pro-tip from Jessie:
“A quick calculation based on your child's age will go a long way to determine the appropriate length of workout for your child. The golden rule is age x 4. So, a four year old will likely start to lose interest after 16 minutes. Either plan your workout to that length or plan for them to be doing a self-sustaining activity after that time while you finish your workout.”
Turn the workout into playtime! Doingpartnered exercises, where you use each other’s bodies as support or equipment can be a wonderful way to work up a great sweat and to make the experience fun.
Some of our favourite partnered exercises include hip flexes, toe-to-toe sit-ups, plank high-fives and ball over-unders.
Kids can be bored, fast. While it’s a good idea to keep some of the basic moves like planks, squats and lunges the same so they build these core fundamentals, it’s also a good idea to introduce fun new moves or variations to these moves. Add jumps to your squats, or a front kick to your lunge, or a shoulder-tap to your plank. These little variations will keep the workouts spicy!
Great advice from Jessie! Your children are humans too and might not want to exercise when you want to.-- and that’s okay!
From Jessie: “Lead by example and 9/10 times if they see something brings you joy they want in on that. It is important to make time for yourself and for your children to see you making time for yourself.. Even when they are there. So, have a plan B. If they opt out, have an alternative activity available for them so you can still get your workout in (colouring, lego, puzzles, etc.).”
Heavy lifting for young children is not recommended, butskipping ropes,steps,Challenger Bars, stability balls,Balance Trainers andeasy resistance bands can be used to add a new element of excitement to the workout.
Order a BodyRockBalance Trainer, right to your door!
Ready to start exercising with your kids? Put all this knowledge to work — and enjoy your time together. You are leading by example and helping to create a generation of happier, healthier and more confident people.
Be sure to join us on BR+for a month free trial and thousands of great workouts for the whole family!
Family Workout Playlist -- search for these on our platform!
Start Strong Ep 1
StaySafe Ep 3
Start Strong Ep 5
TrailBlazer Ep 2
StaySafe Ep 4
Beginner Bootcamp Week 4, Day 5
TrailBlazer Ep 6
SFLive Ep 25
TrailBlazer Ep 5
Beginner Bootcamp Week One, Day One
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