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5 Ways to Exercise With Children

Modify your own physical fitness activities so kids can join in.


Updated June 05, 2014

If you're a parent, especially of small children, your work-out time is limited. I know—I am living it! I think it is valuable to find ways to work in solo exercise time, whether it's early in the morning, late at night, at a gym with a child care facility, or when a partner, grandparent, or sitter can take charge of the kids. But let's face it: That doesn't always happen.

But don't let that derail your fitness goals. You can still exercise with children around. Try these kid-friendly activities.

1. Give me 10 push-ups.

Boy Laying on Man Doing Pushups
Michele Westmorland/Photodisc/Getty Images
Modify push-ups and other strength training moves to match your child's ability. While you do a traditional push-up (toes on the floor, legs and back straight, elbows bent), your child can push up from her knees or just lie on her stomach and straighten her arms.

2. Run, walk, and roll.

Have your child accompany you while you run, walk, bike, or in-line skate. Babies, toddlers, and young preschoolers can ride in a jogging stroller, bike seat or trailer. While you walk, jog, or run, older preschoolers and grade-schoolers can get their own workout on scooters, tricycles, bikes, or in-line skates. If you are a cyclist, consider a trail-a-bike (compare prices) that turns your bike into a tandem-style your child can use.

3. Yoga for two or more.

Teach your child a few simple poses and he can stretch or twist alongside you. Many kids are quite adept and flexible, but let him take the lead and go at his own pace. "Have your child get into the pose by himself—never push," says Joann Ferrara, a physical therapist and the founder of Dancing Dreams, an adaptive dance program for kids with physical and medical challenges. "Kids tend to get overzealous. Err on the side of gentle."

4. Dance it out.

This may be the easiest way to exercise with children: Pump up the music and dance. Use kids' music or your own, and kids' moves (the hokey pokey, say) or your own. "Do it vigorously enough and it gives you a cardiovascular workout," says Ferrara. You can even put in an aerobic dance video and call it a dance party—you follow the instructor's moves, and the kids just do their own jams.

5. Carry your own weight.

Do simple bicep curls, tricep raises, and chest presses with a set of hand weights. Kids 10 and up can join you, using 1- to 2-pound weights, says Ferrara. Give younger kids beanbags, cylindrical wooden blocks, or water bottles (fill partway to add heft) if they want weights of their own. Count together as you lift and you're practicing numbers too!
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