Exercise for Young and Old

Mother exercising with her young daughter
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Children of all ages and their parents benefit from exercise. Here are a couple of ways to integrate an active lifestyle into your and your child's daily routines, no matter how young or old:

Tummy Time With a Twist

Babies exercise muscles needed for crawling while on their tummies, but my son exercised his lungs more than his muscles during tummy time. When I placed him on a beach ball, with my hand firmly on him, I could gently roll him back and forth. His tears turned to delight, and he worked even harder to lift his head and chest to peek over the ball.

— Kelly Bakshi

A Fitness Game 

To keep the family active, I made up a game using a standard deck of cards. Each card suit is designated as a fun movement. For example, 20 seconds of jumping rope for diamonds, five seconds of dancing for hearts, up and down one stair for clubs and running across the yard for spades. Each card value gives the number of repetitions, up to 13 for kings. But we keep the game flexible and set card values to be challenging but doable for each person. Sometimes we let our youngest choose the activities — once we had a run-over-and-pet-the-dog card. The last time we played, the kids rolled with laughter as Dad drew a king and tried unsuccessfully to complete 260 seconds (20 seconds each, times 13 for a king) of jumping rope without tripping.

— Julie Reece-DeMarco

Making Fitness Fun

It’s never too early to start modeling good health for our kids. To make fitness fun, I implemented a mom-and-baby exercise time when my daughter was a year old. I turned on music while we did fun stretches and easy movements.

At mealtimes, I focused on serving fresh produce. I cut vegetables into fun shapes that my daughter could dip in ranch dressing. She pretended to be a dinosaur as she munched on broccoli "trees."

This early introduction to exercise and good nutrition helped my daughter establish a healthy foundation as she blossomed into an athletic child.

— Jan May

Fitness With Older Children

With four children who play multiple sports, it seemed I didn't have to worry about encouraging my family to stay fit. But I noticed that sports practices and competitive games didn't always produce the joy I wanted my kids to associate with exercising. We decided to teach our kids fitness could be fun — as well as rewarding and competitive. Our family designated a time each week for enjoying a fitness activity together.

The first week, we found some used archery equipment, took the kids to a field and practiced target shooting. They loved it! We bought guidebooks about local hiking and biking spots and let the kids take turns picking a destination. A beach walk one week was followed by a bike ride down a famous trail the next. Pickup football and volleyball games have been included, along with hopscotch tournaments, Hula Hoop contests and wall ball championships. Family fitness time has brought us together and has taught my tweens to love all things active.

— Julie Reece-DeMarco

The compiled article "Exercise and Young Children" first appeared on FocusOnTheFamily.com (2017). "Tummy Time With a Twist" first appeared in the February/March 2017 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "Making Fitness Fun" first appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine.  "Fitness With Older Children" and "A Fitness Game" first appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of Thriving Family magazine. "Fitness With Older Children" was originally called "Making Fitness Fun Again." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

"Exercise and Young Children" compiled article © 2017 by Focus on the Family. "Tummy Time With a Twist" © 2017 by Kelly Bakshi. "Making Fitness Fun" © 2013 by Jan May. "Fitness With Older Children" and "A Fitness Game" are copyrighted © 2014 by Julie Reece-DeMarco. Used by permission.

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