It's summertime and if your family is like most, you're wondering what to do. With an increased emphasis on health and fitness, more families are looking for ways to spend a vacation that's not only fun, but also builds in some fitness.

Planning a Vacation That Includes Activity
From low level activities like walking and swimming, to more extreme adventures like running a half marathon or rock climbing, there are many ways to make your vacation active. Plans may vary from a spontaneous day trip to the pre-arranged and very organized, like a walking or cycling tour or a rafting trip. For some, fitness may be the main focus. For others, fitness activities may serve to enrich the usual vacation.

Recommended Activity Amounts for Adults and Children
The US Department of Health and Human Services provides recommendations for activeness based on age. For the 18 to 64 age range, two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or one hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous physical activity each week is suggested. Children and adolescents should aim for one hour or more of moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity each day. By planning an activity for the whole family, you'll be making sure your kids get an hour of activity each day, while getting in your exercise requirements.

Fun and Active Ideas for a Family
The possibilities for fun family activities are endless! Here's a list to help you get started. You can take a family vote on the favorite, or everyone can throw their ideas into a hat and you can have a drawing to determine your plans.
Lower Level Intensity

  • Walking or Walking Tour
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Camping (+ walking)
  • Water Park

Moderate Level Intensity

  • Hiking or Hiking Tour
  • Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Running Event - Family, 5K
  • Stand up Paddle Surfing
  • Water Skiing

Higher Level Intensity

  • Running a Marathon
  • Bicycling Event
  • Surfing
  • Rock Climbing
  • White Water Rafting

Walking, swimming, moderate bicycling, and going to a water park or walking around a theme park are all easy ways to make a vacation active. Your local state and national parks are great places to visit for camping and hiking.

For those wanting a more moderate level of activity, consider hiking, kayaking or canoeing on a river or lake, or training for and entering a family fun run. Running websites and Run Disney have information on upcoming runs and family fun runs. You might even consider training and doing a fundraising run for your favorite charity.

To get a bit more daring, try stand up paddle surfing or water skiing. If you're on the more adventurous side, try running in a marathon or participating in a long-distance cycling event. For even more intensity, go surfing, rock climbing or white water rafting. If the whole family isn't terribly excited about taking an active vacation, you can walk around and see the sites. Researchers at the University of Tennessee reported that those who walk at least 10,000 steps per day (about 4 to 5 miles) have a healthier body weight and percentage of body fat, which reduces their risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Setting a Fitness or Competitive Goal
To motivate your family, you might want to sign up as a team and set fitness goals for everyone to attain. Online fitness-promoting organizations like AmericaontheMove.org and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) allow users to register as a group or a family and set goals. Make a game of it: get a pedometer for each family member so they can track their daily steps. Give a prize for most steps walked each day and the highest total of steps for the whole vacation.

With so many ways to get out and get active, you'll be wondering why you hadn't included fitness as part of your family vacation sooner. Pack some running or hiking shoes and a pedometer and make your next family vacation a fit one!