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Making Exercise More Fun

by Richard M. Weil, MEd, CDE

As an incentive, you can offer a prize for the winning team members. One idea is to have everyone contribute a nominal amount of money — up to five dollars, say — and the winning team members divide the winnings evenly.

Family time
Research shows that parents have a powerful influence on what their kids eat and how they exercise. When was the last time your family went on a bike ride or hike, took a walk in the park, or tossed around a Frisbee or a football? It’s true that soccer moms (and soccer dads) are busy shuttling their kids from one league sport to another and hardly have time for anything else, but perhaps on weekends when there are no activities scheduled, you could spend some time with your family doing something active.

If your kids are not active in sports, all the more reason to be active as a family. Set up your own evening and weekend schedule, with shorter sessions during the week and longer active outings on the weekends. Vary the activities so your kids don’t get bored: Go play at the park one day, run through the sprinkler in the backyard the next, set up a badminton net, go to a community swimming pool, play croquet, kick a soccer ball around, etc. Some cities offer family-oriented fitness classes in parks and recreation centers, and they’re often free. When your family is active, be sure to participate and not just watch your kids ride their bikes or their scooters. And remember that being active is supposed to be fun, so don’t worry about how well you or your kids perform any given activity. Doing it at all is what’s most important.

Alternatively, if your kids are overscheduled with activities already, use your kids’ sports time for your own physical activity time. Drop them off at soccer or ballet class, then take a long walk or get in a quick gym workout or an exercise class of your own before it’s time to pick them up again. If you can’t leave the soccer field for your own workout, at least walk around the field, jump rope, and do some pushups. Seeing you take your own physical fitness seriously will influence your children in the years ahead, when they are adults.

Taking classes
Setting up an exercise routine and varying it enough to keep it interesting is hard work, so why not pay a teacher to do the work for you? Check out the class schedule at your local health club, YMCA, dance studio, or recreation center. Pick something that fits your schedule, looks like fun, and fits your level of energy and ability. Call and ask about trying a sample class if you’re not sure a class will be right for you.

Following an exercise video is another way to let someone else do the thinking for you, but be sure to take any video (or class) at your own pace. It’s OK to build up to doing an entire routine.

Exercise technology
If you enjoy using modern technology for communication and entertainment, why not use it for exercise, too? Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) was one of the first exercise video games, and it’s still popular today. DDR is a music video game that you watch on your TV. To play, you stand on a platform that has colored arrows on it, and you hit the arrows with your feet to the beat of the music and visual cues on the video. You get a score based on how well you time your steps and how accurate you are. It’s lots of fun and lots of exercise!

In a similar vein, a video game console that’s taken the country by storm is Wii, a system that plugs into your TV. The unique feature of Wii is the handheld, wireless remote controller that detects motion in three dimensions. You can play all sorts of sports games against opponents on the TV or against another real person in your own living room. The basic Wii comes with tennis, baseball, boxing, golf, and bowling. It feels real when you swing the tennis racket and hit the ball, line up your golf shot, box with your opponent, and swing the baseball bat. It’s motivating and fun at the same time!

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