The Family that Plays Together Stays Together!! Tips for Encouraging an Active, Healthy Family Lifestyle

By Raelene Peterson


Today, one out of three kids is overweight or obese, and those numbers are only getting worse. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that according to a recent study of cardiorespiratory health by the CDC, 58% of American teenagers ages 12–15 are not adequately fit—a 10% increase from 14 years ago. How did that EVER happen? I remember the day when my parents had to beg me to come in from spending all day with my friends in the neighborhood riding my bike around the country side and just plain running around playing games or exploring.

But today’s society spends several hours a day at school, behind a desk or sitting in traffic while shuttling kids from one activity to the next.  This makes it very tempting for families to want to spend their downtime plopped in front of the screens or letting their kids play endless video games. But research shows that families that workout together are more likely to stick with it, since they can motivate and encourage each other. Plus, exercising as a family has multiple benefits, it’s not only a good way to get your heart pumping and burn calories, but it’s also a great way to build family bonds.  I grew up with a family that believed “A family that plays together stays together.”  Having an active lifestyle will also reduce stress and increase energy levels.  But you don’t have to call it exercise. Here are 14 activities and ideas that can help your family play together while also promoting fit and healthy lifestyles.

  1. Go for a walk or bike ride before or after dinner. We go on walks every Sunday night after dinner and will play a game called “Who’s by Disney” It’s a game where one person gives clues to a Disney character and everyone guess who the character is.  We love this tradition.
  2. Get in the groove! Turn up the music and get moving.  Kids love to dance because they can feel the music’s beat and don’t tend to tire easily because it’s so fun.  We have the best memories blaring the music and getting’ down.
  3. Make it a game or competition. Hold plank or leg wars and pushup or jumping jack contests.  We will even make obstacle courses around the yard or at the park to change it up and see who can get through them the quickest.  Tag is also a well-loved game to play.
  4. Sneak in workouts. Have your kids walk instead of ride in the cart at the grocery store, walk the stairs instead of use the elevator, or park at the back of the parking lot and walk in.  Sneaking movement in burns calories and they wouldn’t even notice.
  5. Sports games. Use a deck of cards to decide how many reps from a list of exercises to be done.  Do the number of each exercise from the number that shows up on the card.  Also you can just grab an assortment of balls and equipment from the garage like a soccer ball, football, basketball, and baseball and gloves, along with a Frisbee and the family dog. Pack a cooler with some water and healthy snacks, and head to your local park for game time. You’ll all have so much fun that you won’t even realize you’re getting a workout in.
  6. Sign up for a fun run/walk as a family. There are many great causes that combine fund raising and fitness.  Build team spirit and make it a goal to train and finish the race.
  7. Yard Work. A family that works together stays together.  Gardening, kills two birds with one stone.  The kids learn about gardening and natural resources and use their bodies while doing it.
  8. Walk a dog. Research shows that families that have dogs are healthier because dogs will not let you skip a day of exercise!  They have a daily need to go outside and families with dogs must get out and walk them and be more active with them when they normally would be without a dog.
  9. Plan a vacation with active outings. Backpacking, hiking, swimming, kayaking, biking, rock-climbing, river-rafting, or canoeing.  This allows your family to experience nature as well as something new in a new place.
  10. Let them have a say… Let your kids choose the active activity that the family is going to participate in. They will be more likely and more willing to participate if it is their idea.
  11. Lead by example. Get off your phone, electronics and/or sofa and take interest in your kid’s health and activity level.  When you become active your kids will follow your lead.  They are watching you and desire to do as you do.
  12. Make it FUN. It needs to be a positive experience or your children will not want to keep doing it.  Maybe even have them invite a friend to make it even more fun.
  13. Try out an AFTER-SCHOOL program or SUMMER CAMP that focuses on outdoor exercise and recreation.  There are camps for everything from baseball to jazz dancing, to surfing, to fencing.
  14. Explore different parks and trails in your city together. Get there by car, by foot, or by bike and make it your mission to get to know cool outdoor areas in and around your town.

Which of these or others will you do to commit your family to be more active?  Check out my Facebook page for more info and in the Houston area, check out

Additional Resources: 


Camps in the Houston area on to help your kids get active outdoors with friends:



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