Ideas that Spark

Shape up With Family-friendly Fitness

Setting new exercise goals? Get your whole family up and moving -- without even leaving the house.

The mere mention of starting a family-wide fitness routine may send everyone running for cover. But incorporating more physical activity into your family life doesn’t have to be a painful and serious undertaking. Here are three family-friendly fitness moves to get fit and have fun -- together.

Get Hooping
Remember Hula-Hoops? As a kid, you’d twirl those giant plastic rings on your waist, wrists and ankles until you just couldn’t do it anymore. Well, they’ve resurfaced as a hot exercise trend, with hooping classes springing up in gyms across the country. Hooping offers a great workout: It strengthens your muscular endurance and your core, according to SportFit Canada, offering a great aerobic workout when you keep it up for 10 minutes.

You don’t even have to take a class to reap the benefits. Numerous DVDs provide a routine (and a soundtrack). You can also create your own. Just buy everyone a hoop. According to the Canadian hooping blog, a hoop should suit the height of the individual who uses it. Children who are shorter than 5 feet and 2 inches should get a 38-inch hoop; adults who are 5 feet and 3 inches to 5 feet and 8 inches tall need a 40-inch hoop; and anyone taller than 5 feet, 9 inches should use a 42-inch hoop.

After you have all of your hoops, crank up your favourite dance music, and have a group twirl-a-thon in the basement or family room. You’ll all have such a blast you won’t even realize you’re exercising.

Hit the Floor
You used to go to dance clubs, but that fell by the wayside when you had a family. Pick it back up by holding regular dance parties at home. Teens may be too embarrassed to join in, but younger kids will love it. Like hooping, vigorous dancing (e.g., salsa, hip-hop or belly dancing) gives you an aerobic workout -- about as much as jogging or cycling. It also improves balance, posture, endurance and flexibility. Step it up a notch and try Zumba, a Brazilian dance-fitness program taught in gyms and dance studios. DVDs and video games can also teach you the moves at home. Note: Zumba’s got some pretty sexy steps, so you may want to make this a girls-only activity!

Go Ahead and Jump
Prizefighters do it to build strength; kids do it to have fun. That combo makes jumping rope an ideal family fitness activity. Jumping rope for 10 minutes offers the same cardio benefit as jogging an eight-minute mile. It also builds bone-mineral density, muscle endurance and coordination. Ropes cost less than $20; buy at least one for every two family members so you can pair off for team competitions. There’s nothing like a little family-friendly fitness rivalry to keep you motivated!