10 Ways to Improve Your Family's Fitness

Improve fitness and health in your home.

Is your family as fit as you'd like? Finding ways to improve fitness may be more important than you realize. Ask parents if their kids are overweight, and about 15% say yes (that's according to a poll conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health in 2012). But in reality, more than 30% of kids are overweight or obese. And many parents say they don't think their kids will be overweight as adults—yet nearly 7 of every 10 American adults is overweight or dangerously obese.

So parents don't always have a realistic view of their kids' weight and health. Taking some of these steps can help you improve your family's fitness, a little bit at a time. Work together and make progress—together.

Set a goal.

Family after 5K color run
Catherine Holecko
Maybe it's "Meatless Mondays" or "Walk-to-School Wednesdays." Or maybe it's registering for a 5K you'll train for and complete together. There are many great options—what's most important is that you pick something specific and achievable, then work towards it as a team.

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Do some research to improve your fitness.

Preschooler on playground climber
Catherine Holecko

Make a list of parks you want to explore, open swim times at the community pool, classes you want to sample, and so on. Or go all out and find a gym to join. This way you're set up for success, ready to grab opportunities for fun physical activity.

Rewrite your grocery list.

Grocery basket with fruits and vegetables
Dan Dalton / Getty Images
You don't need to overhaul your pantry all at once, but you can make changes gradually. Next time you need rice or pasta, buy the whole grain version; swap unsweetened applesauce for sweetened versions (or make your own); and so on. Emphasize whole foods and grains and lean cuts of meat. To reduce your family's intake of salt, sweeteners, and fats, cut back on processed and pre-made foods. During the afternoon and evening hours, kids are most likely to eat unhealthy foods, so it's important to make better choices available.

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Learn a new skill.

Boy on small bike with training wheels
G.P. Cartwright

Keeping both your brain and your body busy will improve fitness! So remember that learning new things is not limited to kids. While your child might work on riding a two-wheeler or learning to swim, you can take up tennis or Zumba or yoga.

Plant a garden.

Little girls gardening
Frank van Delft
Most kids enjoy planting seeds or seedlings and watching them grow. Helping in the garden keeps everyone physically active, and may even inspire picky eaters (of any age!) to try new fruits and vegetables.

Plan healthier celebrations.

Vegetable skeleton for Halloween via Whitney Moss, RookieMoms.com
Whitney Moss / RookieMoms.com

In most families, birthday parties and holiday gatherings mean unhealthy foods. In the NPR/RWJF/Harvard poll, 96% of respondents said that the children in their care had attended events at which foods with "high fat or sugar content, like chips, fried foods, fast foods or sweets" were served. Counteract those empty calories in two ways: By adding healthier choices to the menu, and by adding active play to the party. I post examples of both on Pinterest frequently.

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Help kids find a sport they love.

Father and son in kayak
Paul Edmondson

Matching your child with the right activity will go a long way toward improving fitness and health. If you hit on something he's passionate about, he'll be motivated to work hard. Even if he thinks he doesn't like sports, keep trying. It may take time, but you'll get there eventually.

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Make activity a priority.

Dad and boy doing push-ups by Michele Westmorland, Getty Images
Michele Westmorland

Listen to the excuses (rationalizations? justifications? explanations?) that you make about any lack of fitness in your life. Then find ways around them. Yes, safety is a deal-breaker, but weather doesn't need to be. Nor does lack of time. That's a priority problem, which means you can tackle it.

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Support each other.

woman swimming
ferrantraite / E+ / Getty Images
Of course it's important for parents to support their kids' athletic endeavors, and there are lots of ways to be involved and help kids succeed. But don't forget to support your spouse's fitness needs, too. That often means devoting some of your family budget and schedule to exercise. Remember it's an investment in improving everyone's fitness and health.

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Make meals screen-free.

Family dinner
Sean Justice

You probably already know that too much screen time can interfere with your family's fitness; sitting on the couch is not the best way to get or stay in shape. But research also shows that TV-watching during meals can be associated with higher rates of obesity. So banish dinner-table distractions as best you can.


NPR, Harvard School of Public Health, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: A Poll About Children and Weight: Crunch Time During the American Work and School Week. February 2013.

Rockett, Helaine R.H. Family Dinner: More than Just a Meal. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, July 2007.

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