family flying a kite in a park

Just because it's warmer outside doesn't mean you should spend every day relaxing on your favourite lounge chair. Summer is the perfect season to plan some family fitness time. With a little creativity, you can have fun and enjoy each other's company, while improving your fitness level as a family.

Physical exercise is just as important for children as it is for adults. By spending some time getting fit together, parents and kids can receive all of the benefits of becoming more active, including:

  • Weight control
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of certain diseases, such as some types of cancer and diabetes
  • Higher "good" (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) cholesterol
  • Improved confidence and self-esteem

The British Heart Foundation (BHA) advises that "children and young people should aim to participate in 60 minutes of physical activity every day such as walking, dancing, swimming, cycling, active play or other sports". Guidelines for adults suggest they should aim to build up to a total of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week. So take advantage of the great summer weather to plan outdoor activities that will keep everyone active, energetic, and having fun!

Take a Day Trip
If the kids have been spending too much time in front of the TV or computer, it may be time to shake things up and get them moving. A day trip can offer a great opportunity for family fun - in fact, your young couch potatoes might not even realise this fun is also fitness!

Instead of basing your day trip on sedentary activities like the cinema or an arcade, think about outings that involve some type of movement:

  • Visit a local hiking trail, and pack a picnic to enjoy at the end.
  • Go kite flying, and make sure everyone takes a turn running to get the kite launched.
  • Take a trip to a park or zoo, and spend time walking around exploring all there is to see.

Plan a Day of Football
Why go to matches to watch others play when you can participate yourself? Instead of spending the summer as spectators, harness your family's love of the game for an afternoon of football.

All you need is a ball and something to act as goalpost markers; water bottles or even discarded jackets will do the trick. Many parks have goalposts already in situ so all you need is a ball and you're ready to go. The rules are less important than just getting everyone running around, chasing the ball and aiming for the goal! Any large grassy space will do, just be sure you're not too close to any windows!

Book a Boat Ride and Start Paddling!
While your kids may like the idea of sitting on a motor boat as it zooms across the lake, show them that using their own steam to power a boat can be even more exhilarating.

Look for local boating options in your area, such as canoeing, kayaking, or paddle boating. Many parks and activity centres hire boats out by the hour, and provide you with paddles and life vests to boot. Consider options for multiple passengers to keep family members together. For example, choose two double kayaks for four people rather than four single ones.

HealthAhead Hint: Make Fitness Fun
According to the NHS, both kids and adults need to get enough exercise in order to stay healthy. Research has shown that exercise is associated with both greater life expectancy and decreased risk of heart disease. Don't use summer as an excuse to lounge or to avoid the heat by staying indoors. Get outside with your family, stay active, and take advantage of the natural playground that the outdoors has to offer.