October 6, 2022

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Maybe you’re a busy parent, and struggling to find the time to get to the gym or to a yoga class like you used to. Or perhaps you’re concerned about your child’s amount of screen time and want to see them being more active day to day. An option worth exploring is family fitness.
By engaging in fitness as a family, the whole family can enjoy time together and reap the benefits of regular physical activity. Read on for some fun ways you can get active with kids of all ages.
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Fitness as a family is when the family unit engages in physical activity together. Rather than caregivers peeling off to go to the gym alone—or, on the other hand, a parent dropping their child off for sports practice—family fitness makes being active a group activity.
Whether it’s a hike, a game of soccer in the backyard or a dance party in the living room, approaching fitness as a family allows everyone to reap the health benefits of exercise, while also giving families an opportunity to set their children on a path toward healthy habits.
The biggest reason to explore fitness as a family is because it can make physical activity more fun, says Takeshi Tsuda, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at the Cardiology Center at Nemours Children’s Health in Delaware. “When we can share in an activity together, that’s more fun and more sustainable and more exciting,” says Dr. Tsuda.
Regardless of how old you are, fitness is a “very important matter for your health, just like diet,” he says, adding, “and exercise can be fun—or must be fun—in order to do it.”
Alongside making exercise more enjoyable, opting to engage in fitness as a family can offer a built-in support system to keep everyone motivated. It can also bring families closer by allowing them to share in an experience together.
Whether you’re 40 years old or 4, there are myriad benefits of physical activity for your health and well-being. Key benefits include:
By doing fitness as a family, parents can also reap the benefits of spending quality time with their children, helping them form healthy habits. Meanwhile, when kids have a role model and learn to integrate physical activity into their lives at a young age, they are more likely to stay active throughout their lives.
Family fitness can include a wide range of activities, from working together to do chores around the house or the yard, to tossing a ball or playing tag in the backyard, to taking a walk or a bike ride around the block.
While fitness as a family can certainly include more traditional forms of exercise, such as training together for a 5K race or going for a hike, it can really encompass any form of physical activity that you do together as a family.

Identifying age-appropriate activities is a large part of establishing a family fitness routine that’s fun and maintainable. Here are some ideas for your family to consider depending on the age of your child(ren).
Children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old should be “active throughout the day” to support their growth and development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes. Exercise guidelines from other countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, suggest three active hours per day for kids within this age range.
However, this doesn’t need to be sustained moderate or vigorous activity, but could include play and physical activities guided by an adult. The CDC notes that “children do not usually need formal muscle-strengthening programs,” though they shouldn’t be inactive for long periods of time either, unless they are sleeping.
Family fitness activities for children between the ages of 3 and 5 could include:
Once your child turns 6, the CDC recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity per day that’s moderate or vigorous in intensity. Again, these activities can be short bouts of movement throughout the day, as children typically have attention spans that drive them to participate briefly in one activity before moving on to the next. Most of the daily sessions should include aerobic activity, such as walking or running, and at least three days of the week should include vigorous activity. Children within this age range should also incorporate bone-strengthening and muscle-strengthening activities, such as climbing or jumping.
If your child falls within this age range, here are some family fitness activities you might consider trying:
The physical activity recommendations remain the same for your child as they grow older and become a tween and later a teen. They will still need to get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day, with their routine incorporating aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities.
However, teens can have a tendency to over-exercise, particularly teenage boys. Dr. Tsuda explains that while younger children typically “do what they want to do,” teenage boys especially can “step over what they should not step over, and that causes some trouble.” As such, engaging in fitness as a family can help tweens and teens learn healthy habits and understand how to work out safely and effectively.
For kids age 10 and up, here are some family fitness activities you might consider:
If you’re considering starting a family fitness routine, Dr. Tsuda says the first step is to consider what your goal is—in other words, what you want to get out of being active as a family. For instance, you might set a goal to get physical as a family a certain number of times per week for a set amount of time. To ensure you get there, you could plan a few activities for your week and mark them on your calendar.
Dr. Tsuda also emphasizes the importance of adequate hydration, particularly for teenagers as they’re growing. He also suggests that parents work to help their children build confidence as they try new physical activities, and to offer positive reinforcement and encouragement.
It’s also crucial to listen to your body—especially as you’re adjusting to your new family fitness routine. “Always be prudent if you feel something strange, funny, or atypical,” says Dr. Tsuda. “Please slow down to take care of yourself. That’s a warning sign. It could be nothing, but it’s very important to listen to what the body says.”

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Becca Stanek is an experienced writer and editor who is passionate about exploring the ways we can feel better mentally and physically to get the most out of our lives. She has worked for publications including LendingTree, SmartAsset, and The Week, among others. She’s currently completing her 200-hour yoga teacher training, and also likes to spend her time reading, writing, biking and hiking.
Sabrena Jo is the senior director of science and research at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). A member of the fitness industry since 1987, she is a certified group fitness instructor, personal trainer and health coach. She’s taught group exercise and owned personal training and health coaching businesses. She previously worked as a full-time faculty instructor in the kinesiology and physical education department at California State University, Long Beach. Sabrena Jo is always searching for new ways to help people start and stick with physical activity.

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