28. Make your child a superhero, lifting and spinning him with your arms and/or legs. Basically, you’re using your infant or toddler as resistance to strengthen your muscles. Try doing biceps curls with your baby on your forearms. Lie on your back and press your baby or toddler away from your chest. As he giggles, you’ll get stronger. For larger children, lie on your back and press them away with your feet and hands, getting an upper and lower body workout. Also try swinging them up and down in your forearms. Not only will you get a great workout, your kids will have to use the muscles that control their posture and everyone will bond and have fun.
29. Design your backyard for activity. What you put in your backyard helps determine how fit your children become. If they see it, they will play. If they don’t, they will watch TV. Older children enjoy climbing on ropes or ladders and playing in forts. Make sure you have a swing set, sprinkler attachment for your hose, sandbox, wagon for hauling toys and dolls, and outdoor sporting equipment for basketball, badminton, soccer, and other games.
30. Play active video games. Although most video games only exercise the muscles in the fingers and eyes, a few can instill a pretty good workout. At the video arcade, challenge your child to a game of Dance Dance Revolution. In this game, you must step on floor squares in the order they light up, simulating dancing. Whack-a-Mole and Skee Ball offer other good options. At home, buy a Power Pad for your computer. You connect it to your or your child’s body. As you move, it records your actions in the computer screen in abstract images. Another game available on Game Boy is called Boktai. It requires users to physically go outside to charge up their gun with actual sunlight. Players find themselves running indoors and out to keep the gun charged and the game in play.
31. Create an obstacle course. Set out hula hoops, pillows, and other devices that you can imagine as “rocks.” Then tell your children that the hoops are rocks in a turbulent river. You all must jump from rock to rock to avoid falling in and getting swept away.
32. Master the hula hoop and other toys. You and your children will bond, and you’ll be the coolest parent on the block if you personally master the hula hoop, Lemon Twist, and other active toys along with your child.
33. Crawl with your baby. Too often, once babies start to crawl, we confine them to a bouncy chair or some other device so we can work or even work out. Crawling helps develop upper body strength for both you and your baby, and it’s a great aerobic activity. So get down on all fours and crawl around the room with your baby. To add to the challenge, take a large, air-filled ball (perhaps your stability ball) and push it with your nose as you crawl. Encourage your baby to do the same.
34. Take your kids for a wagon ride. Place small children in a wagon and pull them around the neighborhood. As you pull the wagon, you can get an upper body workout by mimicking typical exercises you would do in a gym. For example, you can walk backward as you pull the wagon, bringing your hands toward your shoulders to simulate a biceps curl. You can walk sideways — doing the grapevine — as you lift and lower your arm out to the side. When you walk forward, bend and extend your elbows for triceps presses. You can also raise your bent elbows toward your shoulders to mimic upright rows. Plus, to make it a better workout for the kids, have them get out of the wagon and walk periodically.
35. Play tug-of-war. You’ll develop upper body and lower body strength as you tug on the rope. To level out the playing field, place two children on one side of the rope and yourself on the other. Bend your knees and bring your legs into a lunge position to get a leg workout as you tug the rope.
36. Learn a sport together, such as skiing. Don’t live near a slope? How about in-line skating or golf (no carts allowed).
37. Forget lying by the pool — play. If you have a pool in your backyard, or belong to a community pool, turn pool time into activity time. Chase your kids in the water, play pirates, water polo, or just swim and frolic. Hoist your kid onto your shoulders, have your spouse hoist another kid, and have a chicken fight. Whoever gets knocked into the water loses (but you all win given the extra energy required to play the game).
38. Play Pinja. This is based on The Lion King movie, in which Nala plays with Simba and says “pinned ya” every time she manages to get him on his back. Pretend you and your kids are all characters from The Lion King and wrestle each other around the living room floor. The game is over when you are wiped out; the kids, however, could probably go all night.
39. Put malls to use. Older kids love to go to the mall. Tell them that you’ll take them to the mall, but set up the following ground rules first: No junk food (most malls provide healthy options, or you can bring a snack pack), and you must cruise the entire mall. A good mall provides several miles of walking. To really get a sense of the benefits, all of you should wear a pedometer.
40. Plan pedometer competitions. Pick a week in which each member of the family wears a pedometer and you compete to see who can garner the greatest number of steps. The winner gets a prize.
41. Set a good example with simple habits. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the store if possible, park far from the entrance of a building. Your children will grow up figuring this is simply the way things are done, and will carry these good health habits into adulthood.
42. Add fun to physically active obligations. Put on music when sweeping, vacuuming, or doing the dishes. Create a game out of chores (who can find the most dust bunnies) and turn grocery shopping into a scavenger hunt.
43. Play “chase my shadow.” The kids have to jump and run to catch your shadow.
44. Hit a hotel or office building (during off-hours) and play the staircase game. The family splits into two teams. One team takes the elevator, and the other takes the stairs. The goal is to see who gets to the set floor the fastest. Then you switch teams.
45. Learn martial arts together. Many local community colleges and fitness centers offer martial arts classes designed for adults and children, and many forms of martial arts, including karate, judo, and tai bo, provide aerobic, strength, and flexibility training. In these classes, your children will also learn self-control and discipline as well as boost their self-esteem, balance, and posture.
46. Look into family fitness programs at your local health club. A growing number of clubs now offer programs for families, ranging from aerobics to swimming to in-line skating. Don’t, however, just sign everyone up and hope for the best. Sit down with your family and go over your options. You get the best results if you pick a family fitness option that is pre-approved by all.
47. Organize a playgroup with other parents and children in your neighborhood. As the toddlers actively play in the center of the yard, the adults exercise around the periphery, doing calisthenics, marching, walking, and jogging in place.