We know physical activity can increase life expectancy, lower risk for heart disease, and even improve school performance. Plus it helps kids burn off energy! Incorporating family activities and fitness as part of your child’s routine at an early age can help them form healthy habits for life. The behaviors and habits your child builds now can translate into adulthood.

Children watch you as role models and learn how to be active in fun and easy ways. What you do, they do. When exercise feels like play, the whole family is more likely to enjoy it and stick with it.

Here are 5 ideas for family fitness that can keep you all moving:

1. Make time to play. Set aside 30 minutes at least 3 times per week for physical activity with your kids. Also try and plan at least one family activity every weekend. It can be simple, like taking the little ones to the playground – or even more challenging, like an all-day hike with your teenager. One key to getting kids moving is planning time for physical activities. Make it a part of your after-school or after-dinner routine so they can plan for this time in their day as well. Physical activity doesn’t have to be stereotypical exercise like running or going to a gym. Make it fun! You could kick a soccer ball around, play catch, jump rope, or create a new dance. Try and offer a variety of family activities, both competitive and noncompetitive. Exploring different ways to move will help children find exercises they enjoy and want to stick with for the long run. 

2. Walk or bike everywhere you can. Use muscle power: Bike or walk to the grocery store, library, or to your child's school or sporting events. Go for a 30-minute family walk after dinner instead of heading right for a screen. Track everyone’s mileage or steps with an activity tracker (like a Fitbit). Make it competitive by seeing who completes their daily goal first or who gets the most steps in a day. Use a family exercise log or colorful stickers as a reminder of progress while cheering each other on.

3. Plan active family gatherings. At birthday parties or any large gathering, plan active games such as tag, relay races, or a dance party. If you have enough people, play a team sport. Playing soccer, basketball, and volleyball can be a great way to incorporate everyone in physical activity. Other active party ideas include: a pool party, in-line or ice skating, or climbing at an indoor rock gym. At family or holiday gatherings, stay away from devices (TV, tablets, and cell phones) and take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a short hike at a local park.

4. Sing and dance while you clean. Set aside time to do household chores as a family. Play music as you clean, and take turns choosing favorite songs. Younger children can pick up toys or sweep floors while dancing with the broom. Older kids can dust, vacuum, and help make beds.

5. Make yard work less of a chore for more family exercise. Enjoy seasonal yard work together. Rake leaves, plant a garden, make a snow fort, or see who can shovel the fastest. No matter the weather, you can make yard work a fun family activity!