Super fun ways to get your kids to exercise

The best ways to get your little ones to exercise is to make it fun for them and join them in it

vesna jacob with girl, work out

Children always need undivided attention. It can be quite tricky to fit in an exercising routine when you have them around. Here are few things you can do to overcome this challenge and have fun in the process. You are your child’s first and foremost role model. I took up sports at a very young age because my parents encouraged me since childhood. One of our favourite times together was playing and running around in the park.

Now think about your own life. Were your parents physically active? Was that the image you had while growing up? Were they not really into fitness? How did their fitness affect you? Do you think you are as active as them, given the modern lifestyle differences? What kind of a role model do you want to be for your children? Movement comes naturally to each one of us and exercising can be an excellent way of spending time with your kids. By exercising, you can not only set a good example for your children but also work on your own fitness.

Stress

Many people undervalue the stress that comes while running a household and taking care of children. Honestly, most of us take it for granted. We think that women, who stay at home and take care of the household, don’t really do anything important or substantial. Actually a person who is in that situation feels stuck with never ending tasks. Cleaning, shopping, cooking, taking care of family, managing children’s schedules, coordinating and dealing with kids and their little fights, and handling staff isn’t as easy as it sounds.

In spite of being completely devoted and committed to your family, managing the household can be quite chaotic and tiresome. There are no breaks, no set working hours, and your life seems to revolve around everybody else’s. The key is to take time out from your daily routine and set time for yourself. This can be like your very own oasis, where you retreat to recharge yourself. This ‘me time’ can be utilised by doing anything that you find appealing. Just be sure to stick with whatever you choose to do. Your ‘me time’ should have the same priority as everything else you do for people around you. Even if you have to spend some time in reworking your schedule, the ‘me time’ should be spent exclusively on yourself and everyone else should respect and appreciate it.

Whenever possible, try meditation in order to create a balanced system and to soothe your mind. Taking out time for yourself will help you cope with everything in a better way. It will take away the feeling that life is passing by without you doing anything for yourself. On the other hand, by spending time in doing something that you enjoy will take away the feeling of being stuck. You will find yourself going through daily duties with much more ease and joy and the benefits will also be far-reaching.

Tree in the wind

Imagine yourself as a big tree with branches that reach out to the sky and wind that makes the leaves and branches sway to and fro. As the wind gets stronger, the branches teeter-totter and the tree bends down. After sometime, the wind starts blowing from the other direction making the tree branches move accordingly. You can also make wind-like blowing sounds while doing this fun exercise.

Growing tree stretch

Tree stretch exerciseImagine yourself as a little seed, buried in the ground. Curl your body, squat, or lie down on one side. When it rains, the little seed starts sprouting and moves up to reach the surface of the ground. Get on to your knees and slowly move up your arms. Once the little sprout reaches the ground, it starts growing bigger and stronger; trying to reach towards the sun. It grows till it becomes a big, beautiful tree with its branches stretched out. Now this tree is so beautiful that you want to give it a big hug. So give that tree a hug and then go back to a being a little seed again. Repeat three times.

Hopping

Hopping exercisePlay a game with your kids. Ask them to name all the animals that hop. You can help them by giving clues like making sounds and mimicking those animals. This category will have animals like frogs-small, green ones hopping from one lotus leaf to another. Then there would be rabbits that are a little bigger, with long ears, little puffy tails, and a beautiful soft coat. Place your hands on your head and hop around. Ask your children to do the same. Then jumps in a big kangaroo; with a pouch where the mother keeps her babies. You can wrap dupattas around your waists, place a doll inside, and then hop around like kangaroos. Many birds like sparrows also hop. Flap your wings and hop like a little sparrow. I am sure you can find many more examples of animals that hop. Let your imagination take you on a fun-filled journey with your kids!

Walking

Mimic the way animals walk. You can mimic a cat, tiger, dog, monkey, horse, elephant, penguin, or any other animal that comes to your mind. If you are mimicking cats or dogs, stretch like them, wag your hip area, and then walk on all fours. Monkey walk is the most challenging exercise, though kids love it. You need to bend your knees and place your palms comfortably on the floor. Your weight should remain on the legs and arms should be used only for extra support. The distance between your hips and the ground should not be too much and your legs should be relaxed. If not, your monkey walk would turn into elephant walk! Now imagine yourself as a monkey and start chattering like one. If you have problems in your neck or shoulder area, do this exercise without placing your arms on the floor. Your way of walking would then resemble that of a chimpanzee’s rather than a monkey’s.

Balance exerciseFlamingo Balance

There are many flamingos which are standing still, balanced on one leg. When they get tired they change legs and stand on the other leg. Perform the same exercise with your kids and change legs when you are tired.

Nature and animal kingdom

You can try many ways to involve your children while exercising. Begin by mimicking everything your kids do while playing and running around. You’ll’ probably find this quite challenging since children have abundant energy. Keeping up with them will help you keep in shape. You can also get creative and integrate exercises into their playing time. You can take inspiration from nature and the animal kingdom to create an exciting exercising routine. It will not only be fun but will also help you build a good rapport with your kids. Moreover, these exercises will take care of your, as well as your child’s overall fitness.

You may also like: Yoga for kids

At a party

Working out

I come across a lot of raised eyebrows whenever I talk about exercising at a party. The conversation turns towards statements like, ‘How can anyone workout at a party without catching attention?’ Well, the thing is, you don’t need to workout but exercise in a subtle manner. For example, at any social gathering you can easily do bottom squeezes or stomach pump-ins [where you quickly tighten and relax of your abdominal muscles]. You can in fact do these exercises at any place and at any time. In fact, with a little bit of practice, nobody would take notice, even if you are dressed in fitted clothes.

If you are not comfortable doing quick movements and feel it’s all too visible, you can always try isometric exercises. For example you can tighten your bottom muscles and press your thighs together, and hold this position for as long as possible. This exercise won’t distract you at all and you will still be able converse normally without feeling awkward. In the same way, you can also work your arms, back, and abdominal muscles. Keep stretching your body by doing shoulder, wrist, and toe rotations. All these movements can be done in a discreet manner. Nobody would take notice and you will be adding points to your day long exercise score. The other thing I find very useful is to keep moving and mingling around with people. Doing this can add a few hundred extra steps on your pedometer [which you should be wearing at all times].

Eating out

When it comes to eating at a party, there are a few rules you need to follow. To begin with, if you are planning to have dinner, take no more than six pieces of starters or snacks. In case you are trying to lose weight, you should altogether skip eating late or at the best have your last meal by 7.30 pm. The next rule is to never stand too close to the dining table. Sit and eat as far as possible from the place where the food is being served. Lastly, don’t fill up more than one third of your plate. Don’t think of this as a punishment but rather, as an opportunity to make better food choices. Since you’ll have to walk a long way for a second helping, by the time you’ll reach the food counter, your mind would have received the signal that you are no longer hungry. It takes approximately 20 minutes for the mind to realise that the body is no longer hungry. This is the main reason why people who eat quickly usually end up overeating. At first, this might seem like too much of an effort, but eventually with time and persistence, this will become your second nature.

Excerpted with permission from Work It Out Without a Work Out by Vesna P Jacob, Random House India.


A version of this article first appeared in the March 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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