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Maintaining a healthy weight is a goal that many moms share, but finding the time and motivation to exercise can be a challenge. Incorporating your kids into your fitness routine not only helps you stay active, but also creates memories and rituals you can share as a family.
“Seeing their mother stay active helps children internalize the importance of fitness and overall self-care,” says Alexa Stelzer, RDN, LD, CDCES, and clinical health coach at Robin by One Drop. “The exposure can help cultivate healthy habits in kids and inspire confidence in their own physical abilities. It normalizes being active and taking time for wellness in a way that can impact their mindset long term.”
The journey to weight loss doesn't have to be monotonous; in fact, it can be a joyful and engaging experience for both you and your children. Read on for nine fitness activities that you can do with your kids, backed by scientific research, to make your weight loss journey a fun and fulfilling one.
1. Family Dance Party
Turn on some upbeat music and let loose with your kids. Low-impact aerobic dancing can be just as effective for weight loss as jogging or cycling when done for an hour two to three times a week, according to research published in Applied Human Science.
Dancing is not only a great cardiovascular workout, but also a fantastic way to boost mood and bond with your little ones. Share some of your own favorite music from your childhood and teen years to bring back fond memories for yourself and create new ones with your kids.
2. Nature Walks
Explore the outdoors with your children through leisurely walks in your local park or nature reserve. Not only does “green exercise,” or exercising in nature, benefit you physically, it can improve your mental well-being, too. There is even some evidence that exercising in a natural environment feels easier and less strenuous than exercising indoors.
Add some excitement to your nature walk by incorporating a scavenger hunt, stopping to build a nature sculpture out of twigs or leaves, or playing “I spy” as you go. Spending time in nature helps kids stay active while improving critical thinking, creativity, and mental well-being.
3. Playground Workouts
While your kids play, engage in exercises using playground equipment. You can fit in an entire strength training routine while your kids play. Try one of these activities to get started:
- Complete a few pull-ups and hanging knee raises on the monkey bars.
- Use the end of the slide to do push-ups.
- Practice leg lifts by leaning over a picnic table in an inverted L shape.
- Find any vertical surface like a climbing wall to do wall sits.
Using this “off time” to squeeze in a quick and efficient workout will help you reach your weight loss goals while showing your kids that you value your physical well-being and staying active.
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4. Yoga Playtime
Introduce your kids to yoga poses and stretches while emphasizing mindfulness. Beyond the physical benefits like improved flexibility and metabolism, yoga can also make you a more mindful eater. In one research study, practicing yoga is associated with a lower fat intake and a higher consumption of fresh vegetables and whole grains.
If you’re new to practicing yoga with your kids, a great place to start is Cosmic Kids Yoga, a YouTube channel and app with dozens of yoga and meditation videos geared toward families. The videos are even categorized by length, so you can choose one that fits your little one’s attention span.
5. Home Obstacle Course
Set up a mini obstacle course at home, incorporating activities like jumping jacks, crawling, and balance exercises. An obstacle course provides benefits similar to high-intensity interval training (commonly known as HIIT).
Doing a HIIT workout means performing short bursts of intense activity with all your effort. Research shows that HIIT can bring about benefits for both your metabolic health and your exercise endurance. A home obstacle course can check all the boxes for an effective HIIT workout.
6. Jump Rope Fun
Jump ropes are not only inexpensive, but also offer an effective full-body workout. Jumping rope provides a whole host of benefits. It improves your cardio fitness, strengthens muscles, builds stronger bones, and improves balance.
Kids as young as three years old can learn how to jump rope. By the time they’re five or six, most kids will be able to swing the rope and jump multiple times in a row. Once they’re familiar with how to do the basic jump roping motions, kids can start adding fun tricks like scissors jumps, cross jumps, duckies, and swings. For inspiration, search for jump roping competitions to watch in your area—you might be surprised by how many there are!
7. Simon Says Workout
Play "Simon Says" with fitness moves. This game combines exercise with entertainment, helping your kids learn new movements while staying active. This is a great way to teach basic fitness moves from calisthenics like jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, calf raises, and wall sits.
Calisthenic moves like these are compound muscle exercises, meaning that multiple groups are used at once. This lets you burn a lot of calories in a relatively short amount of time.
8. Animal-Inspired Movements
Your very little ones might love imitating animal movements like bear crawls, frog jumps, and crab walks. These exercises can improve strength, mobility, and agility for parents and kids alike. Plus, they add a little creativity and playfulness.
A great place to find animal inspiration is in the picture book, Monkey and Me, by Emily Gravett. In this book geared toward preschoolers, a little girl and her toy monkey love imitating different kinds of creatures from kangaroos to penguins.
9. Household Chores Workout
Turn chores into a workout by doing lunges while vacuuming or squatting while picking up toys. While it might feel like a stretch just getting your child to do chores without adding fitness into it, you might find that by turning it into a game, you’ll get a little more enthusiasm.
Pose challenges to them like: “How many lunges can you fit in while vacuuming the living room?” or “How many squats can you do while emptying the dishwasher?”
Move Together, Stay Together
Incorporating exercise into your routine with your kids can be a delightful approach to weight loss. These nine exercises not only offer physical benefits, but also create lasting memories and reinforce healthy habits for your children. Remember, consistency is key, and the goal is to make fitness a part of your family's lifestyle.
This article has been clinically reviewed by Hanna Rifkin, RD, CDCES, clinical health coach at One Drop.