Exercise for kids: family fitness and weight-loss activities

Have some family fun with exciting indoor and outdoor activities like walking or swimming - you'll be keeping the kids happy and get some exercise too - perfect!

exercise for kids

Experts say that exercising for just 30 minutes a day could help you live up to five years longer, so now's the time to get all the family involved!

Getting fit doesn't mean you have to go to the gym or join your local hockey team. We've got loads of fun and easy ways to help you up your family fitness levels that you'll all enjoy whatever your ability.

From swimming, to playing in the park with the kids, we've got something here for every family member of any age or size.

1. Visit the park

The park is a great place to boost your family fitness level and have a good time together - and it's free!

Children can spend hours running around on their own making up games, so often, just getting them out in the park is all you need to do.

As you all walk round, you'll be getting your heart pumping and toning your legs as you go.

There are loads of games you can all play together as well.

Football, rounders, tag, stuck in the mud and hide and seek are all really easy games you can play with little organising.

Your kids will probably have their favourites they play at school, so ask them to come up with ideas as well.

Why it's so good for us: Playing games together in the park will give you all an aerobic workout, lots of fresh air and will help you keep slim or lose weight. Ball games will also help the kids' co-ordination

How often should you do it? Go to the park every weekend for a few hours.

2. Go swimming

Swimming is exciting, good for you and you can make it into the perfect family fitness day of fun for everyone.

Babies Children from as young as three months old can take part in family swimming trips. In fact, it's the little ones who can't crawl or walk yet who get the most benefit from it!

The water supports their bodies giving them the freedom to move their arms and legs in a way they can't on land.

It helps them develop good co-ordination and as anyone who's ever taken a baby swimming knows, most of them love it, too.

It's best to sign up for baby swimming classes with very young ones.

Primary school age children Older children also get loads of benefits from swimming. Although they may not be swimming up and down in lanes, all the splashing about is great aerobic exercise, treading water is good for building up all-over muscle strength and it's always good for your kids to be good swimmers so they are safe near water.

There are also lots of games you can play with the family. You could take it in turns to fetch things from the bottom of the pool.

You could also have races, see who's best at balancing on a swimming pool float or find out who can hold their breath the longest under water.

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Adults To keep fit it's important to keep moving about in the water. You could take it in turns to keep an eye on the kids while one of you swims up and down the length of the pool.

To benefit your whole body, switch between front crawl, breast stroke and back stroke.

Treading water is great aerobic exercise and will tone and strengthen your legs muscles.

To get rid of your bingo wings, try swimming with a pool float in between your legs. This will make your arms work harder, tightening up those baggy underneath bits.

*You may want to check with your health visitor if your baby's been ill or hasn't had their vaccinations.

Why's it so good for us? Swimming increases your lung capacity, gets you tonnes of aerobic exercise (which can help you lose weight and keep your heart healthy), helps tone your body all over and keeps your joints healthy while you exercise. Being in the water can also give you all an overall sense of well being, too.

How often should you do it? Once a week for about 45 minutes.

Very little ones shouldn't be in the water for longer than 30 minutes, though.

3. Take a walk

Walking is a simple but effective exercise to improve family fitness, and improves aerobic fitness and overall health.

If done regularly it could help to lessen your chances of getting cancer, heart disease and even catching a cold.

It's also a great way to keep weight off and lift your mood.

Take the kids to the local park, countryside or nature reserve. They might enjoy spotting the wildlife plus the exercise and fresh air will do them good.

Find the best routes, parks and open spaces for walking near you: www.ramblers.org.uk and click on 'discover your region'

Or find your local nature reserve: www.naturalengland.org.uk or www.wildlifetrusts.org.

Why's it so good for us? A brisk walk gets your heart going which makes it stronger. You can tone up your legs and lose weight if you're walking most days. It also gets the family out in the fresh air and away from the TV

How often should you do it? 30 mins five times a week.

4. Head out for a run

Running is great for everyone and it's an easy way to start boosting family fitness, even if you're not a sporty family.

The idea of going for a run as a family may be a little intimidating if jogging's not part of your exercise regime (and especially if you don't have an exercise regime!). But once you get into the swing of it, you'll be hooked.

Kit your family out with decent trainers - make sure you buy running shoes, not fashion trainers - from a sport shop that has trained staff who'll be able to help you choose the right pair.

You need to stretch thoroughly before and after jogging to stop getting injured and to help ease aches the next day.

Why it's so good for us: Jogging is free, great aerobic exercise and can help you lose weight and tone up

How often should you do it? 30 minutes three times a week.

5. Go for a family bike ride

A family bike ride will get all of you out in the fresh air and will up your family fitness levels in no time.

There are loads of safe cycle paths and events around the country where kids of all ages can get on their bikes.

Or, if you're all confident cyclists, you can take to the roads and visit some local nature spots, parks or beaches.

Don't forget to kit everyone out with cycling helmets and elbow and knee pads for nervous youngsters.

Why it's so good for us: Cycling tones your legs and tummy, is great for weight loss and gets the whole family out in the fresh air

How often should you do it? A bike ride for a few hours every weekend.

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6. Go ice skating

If you've been hooked on Dancing on Ice, why not encourage everyone to give it a go to improve family fitness?

Ice skating is a great cardiovascular workout, it works thigh and calf muscles and most importantly it's fun for both kids and adults alike.

You can skate and enjoy the winter air at an outdoor rink, or keep warm indoors.

Find your nearest rink and more information at www.iceskating.org.uk.

Why it's so good for us:You use loads of different muscles in your legs when you go ice-skating, it's great for your balance and gives you a good cardiac workout.

How often should I do it? 30 mins, or three 10-min sessions at a time.

7. Hit the slopes

Skiing is great for toning the body, working the lungs and heart and strengthens your leg muscles too.

Remember to warm up and have some proper training before you and your family take to the slopes to reduce the risk of injury.

The UK is full of dry ski slopes, so find you nearest one at www.snowlifeorg.uk.

Why it's so good for us: All the twisting and turning of skiing works your tummy muscles really hard and the crouching is fantastic for your thigh muscle

How long should I do it for for? 30 mins.

8. Throw some shapes

Strictly Come Dancing has made ballroom dancing popular all over again and got us all glued to the telly.

Dancing is a great way for you and a partner to exercise and gain self-confidence. Try Salsa as it's good exercise and it will improve your co-ordination.

First find out which type of dance (salsa, ballroom, jazz, street, tap, Latin...) would most suit you and go for it!

There are also loads of classes out there for the kids, too. So the whole family can get involved to improve overall family fitness.

Visit www.uk-ballroom.co.uk for your local ballroom dancing classes.

Why it's so good for us: You'll tone muscles you never knew you had and if you're doing fast dancing you'll get a great aerobic workout too

How long should I do it for? 45 mins.

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9. Jump around

Trampolining isn't just for kids, it has many health benefits.

It's a low-impact exercise and because you don't lock your joints when you bounce, you're less likely to damage them. As well as speeding up your pulse rate, which makes your heart work harder and become stronger, it improves bone density and can help prevent osteoporosis.

You can find a trampolining class near you at: www.trampolining-online.co.uk or if you want to buy one for your own home, visit www.bouncyhappypeople.co.uk where you can buy a mini exercise trampoline for £37.95.

Why it's so good for us: It'll give you a fabulous aerobic workout and will strengthen and tone your legs

How often/long should I do it for? 10 mins a day, or a 30-min class.

10. Try hula hooping

Hula hooping works your stomach, hips and bottom, but you can also learn how to tone up your body, arms and legs too.

Hula will also raise your pulse, exercising your heart and improving your overall fitness and the best thing is, anyone can do it, almost anywhere!

Why it's so good for us: All the wiggling is a great aerobic workout and the twisting and turning helps you tone up

How long should I do it for? 20 mins.

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