Worrying new data has revealed that parents are fitter than their children, so we’ve got a few tips to make exercise enjoyable for everyone
From exam pressures to social factors and the dreaded screen, it appears the barriers are endless for young people to not take part in activity these days. In fact, new research* claims that kids are the least active members of the family. Let us put that into context: the average UK adult is sat down for almost eight hours at work and every primary school-aged child in the country has access to PE lessons. We understand that it can take a lot of persuading to make your reluctant teen take a shower, let alone come out jogging with mum, so that’s why we’ve called in the experts to find out the different ways you can move more as a family.
Address individual barriers
“As with anything, the first step to improvement is addressing what is holding you back,” says Harry Grosvenor, trainer at Virgin Active (virginactive.co.uk). “For adults, this tends to be lack of time, while for children, the biggest two barriers are likely to be a lack of enjoyment or competency. These both work hand-in-hand. At that age, if you’re not good at a sport, then you’re more than likely not going to enjoy it. You may need to give them some extra help or try overcoming the reason they’re not getting the most out of it and come up with alternatives.”
Let them see you exercise
“If your children grow up around exercise, it will become part of their DNA in the same way that games consoles or exposure to the internet and social media often do,” explains Vicki Anstey, leading fitness expert and founder of Barreworks (barreworks.co.uk). “If you train at home, let your kids join in. If you like to run outside, let the kids join you on bikes if they’re old enough, or invest in a running buggy.”
Try the ad break challenge
“Sometimes, it’s difficult to get outside while the weather is bad, so if you’re at home, why not break a sweat while watching TV?” suggests Stephen Trussell, personal trainer at Nuffield Health (nuffieldhealth.com). “The next time your family watches TV together, set a fitness challenge to do every ad break. This could be who can hold the longest plank, or who can do the most burpees or star jumps? If you’re watching ’on demand’, set a regular timer to get up and moving.”
Make it fun
“Personal training is all about getting that perfect balance of fun, effectiveness and challenge all in one session,” says Harry. “Make sure that it’s an activity your child likes, with people they like and in a place they can relax and have fun. If it all gets taken too seriously, then they might start to enjoy it less and less, which can lead to an unhealthy relationship with exercise over time.”
Go for a pre or post-meal walk
“Exploring your neighbourhood on foot is a great way to get the whole family out in the fresh air,” explains Nuffield Health personal trainer, Matt Lane-Miller. “If the kids need encouragement, why not take a scooter or turn it into a treasure hunt? Even if it is dark and unappealing, taking torches will turn it into an adventure. Being active and getting fresh air before bed can also help everyone sleep better, feel more refreshed and able to concentrate the next day.” It’s also a great opportunity to fit in your #walktowellbeing!
Don’t let exercise become transactional
“If your exercise is all about the calories or what you’ve ’earned’ as a reward for being active, your kids will pick up on this too,” warns Vicki. “Use language that relates to a better lifestyle, having fun, being together, feeling better, rather than something you do as a means to justify eating a doughnut.”
Sign up for a family exercise challenge
“There are plenty of events to focus your efforts on as a family, from Race for Life to The Colour Run, or even your local and junior parkrun,” says Stephen. “It’s motivating to have a date to aim for and the whole family can practice at the weekend. And nothing beats reaching the finish line together!”
Need more inspo? Liz Aitken, head of children and young people at Sport England (sportengland.org), reminds us that all activity counts: “Dancing round the kitchen, walking instead of driving, or running around the park with the kids are all great ways to get started. At Sport England, we want everyone in the country to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity, and gain positive benefits for mental and physical wellbeing.” Try Sport England’s techniques to get your whole brood moving.
1. Disney 10-minute shake up – Change4Life and Disney have teamed up to bring Shake Up games inspired by Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 4 and Incredibles, and Disney’s The Lion King and Frozen. They’re 10-minute bursts of fun that families can do together to be active every day. Head to nhs.uk to try them for yourself.
2. This Girl Can has partnered with Disney to design dance routines to get mums active with their kids. Visit thisgirlcan.co.uk for more ways to get moving.
3. Head over to the National Trust’s website (nationaltrust.co.uk) to see its extensive list of ideas.
4. Parkrun: With more than 800 socially focused parkruns held weekly, this is a great way to get active with the whole family and explore your local park. Sport England has recently supported parkrun in the creation of 200 new events in England, specifically targeting new events in communities that have the most to benefit from free, weekly, social activity in open spaces. Visit parkrun.org.uk to find your nearest event.
These stars reveal how they incorporate a healthy relationship with exercise and their kids
“My girls love working out, but I’ve been very hands-off about exercise because I wanted them to come to it by choice. I know that if anybody tries to make me do something, it makes me run a thousand miles in the opposite direction! I didn’t want to do that with them, so they’ve come because they’ve wanted to, which is nice.”
“The best thing to do is to be a role model. My little daughter, Indie, is already watching me, and it’s incredible how much they learn from what they see. Showing your children that when you exercise, you have fun, you feel good and you’re happier is powerful and will help them think that they should do it, too. I’m really making a big effort with Indie to make sure she sees that fitness is part of life; that it’s what we should do and it’s amazing.”
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
“When I was competing for Rio 2016, I was questioning whether it was the right thing to go back to training after having my son, Reggie, but it turned out to be the most incredible experience as he was able to be part of such a special time in my career. Myself and my husband want both of our kids to enjoy exercising and have the importance of staying healthy be the norm for them, so I just hope we teach them lots of good things.”