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Four Tips for Exercising with Your Kids

There was a time when home workouts were unusual. Home fitness equipment often spent more time gathering dust than garnering reps, but a pandemic changed our lifestyle and mindset. Priorities shifted, and people realized that working out at home saved travel time and allowed for more family time.

People began to exercise at home, some for the first time and others with reinvigorated energy. In addition, many people realized that incorporating their family into their fitness routine allowed them to spend quality time with their family while burning a few calories and instilling a love of movement in their kids.

I am one of those people. I have four young children, and our family loves to exercise together. It's part of our bonding time. As a trainer with over twenty years of experience, it's also something I highly recommend for other families. However, for you to optimize your family workout time, there are things parents should pay attention to when exercising with kids.

Here are my four top tips for exercising with your children:

1) Make the environment fun

If you want to give your children the best opportunity to find long-term enjoyment with fitness, you have to ensure they enjoy the process. As a trainer, I can tell you that the fastest way to chase someone away from the gym is to make their experience miserable. This truth goes double for children. Your goal as a parent is to give your children a positive association with fitness at a young age. This positive association will carry them through those occasional moments later in life when fitness is not fun.

Fortunately, making fitness fun for kids isn't very difficult. All it requires is an enjoyable atmosphere and a positive attitude. Kids love games and competitions. You can make almost anything into a game or a healthy competition by turning it into a fun, age-appropriate challenge.

For children too young to exercise themselves, it's still good to be around exercise. You can involve your kids in your fitness routine when you work out at home as I do. My four kids are all five and under, so every pushup I do looks like an opportunity for a horsey ride to them.

Fitness has always been associated with fun in our house, giving my children a higher likelihood of incorporating fitness into their lives as adults.

2) Make the environment safe

No matter what your fitness routine is like or what your athletic goals are if your children are around when you exercise, their safety should be paramount. Fortunately, incorporating your children into your fitness lifestyle can be kept safe relatively easily when you use a little common sense and lay some ground rules.

I have a background in powerlifting, bodybuilding, fitness modeling, and personal training, so my workouts are often intense. People sometimes comment about the weight I am lifting with my children around. I appreciate their worries about my children's safety, but I always assure them that no one worries more about my kids than me.

Our family has instituted several rules that help maintain a safe environment for the kids to be in and around our home gym. For example, the kids know that when their dad does a "big set," they must sit down and stay back. So all I have to do is tell them it's time for a big set, and they take their seats for the thirty seconds or so it takes me to complete the lift. This process allows them to stay safe and lets me focus on my set, knowing they are a safe distance away.

Whatever parameters you set, ensure they are age appropriate and set them with your children's safety in mind.

3) Make the environment low-pressure

Nothing will discourage your kid's desire for a healthy lifestyle more than being forced to partake in fitness activities against their will. Your goal should be to create an environment of support and positive reinforcement. Make your workout time a fun way to grow stronger as a family. Build each other up as teammates and be careful to avoid creating an atmosphere that discourages participation.

Earlier I said that you could make fitness fun by turning things into a competition, but you want to be careful that you don't make the competition stressful by applying undue pressure. When turning fitness into competition with kids, it's best to have them compete against themselves. For example, you might have your son beat his pushup record from the previous week instead of attempting to top his sister's pushup record.

For best results, create a low-pressure and enjoyable exercise environment rather than a stressful one. Add a heavy dose of positive reinforcement and watch your kid's fitness love grow.

4) Make the environment active

One of the best ways to incorporate your children into your fitness routine is to exercise in an active environment. When you have kids, working out at a park or beach is often far better than exercising in a gym. Whenever possible, give your children space to be active during the workout.

For example, a set of monkey bars works excellent as a pull-up station and a place for your kids to test their grip strength. A swing set can keep your kids entertained and also double as a functional training apparatus for your mountain climbers. A set of steps works just as well to wear out parents and children. (Our SuperSesh has it all!)

Your children are far more likely to join you at the local park for a workout than they are to join you at the local gym. Exercising in an active environment increases the chances that your children will find an activity that interests them and increases the likelihood that they will adopt an active lifestyle of their own.

 

With a bit of thought and imagination, it's relatively easy to ensure your family fitness routines are fun, safe, low-pressure, and active. Incorporate these four factors into your family fitness, and you will be able to watch your family and your fitness flourish.

John T. Prather

John Prather is an author, actor, and fitness model based in Los Angeles, California. You might have seen him in Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness, GQ magazine, or on the TV playing a superhero or advocating for foster care and adoption. He is the author of The Nephilim Virus and numerous published articles on family and fitness. The accomplishment he’s most proud of is being the father of four young children. You can find out more at johntprather.com.

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