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Ask the Expert - Fit Family: Tips for exercising with kids and why it’s important

Ask the Expert - Fit Family: Tips for exercising with kids and why it’s important

Sports, a healthy lifestyle, and an active childhood is of life-long benefit 

As parents, we’re well aware of the importance of healthy living and staying physically active. Whether it be going to the gym or enrolling children in youth sports, we often schedule time for physical activity. But, not often enough do we consider making time to exercise as a family.

This month, we spoke with Katie Guffey, owner of FitMommy Charleston. Katie has a background in early childhood education, is an ACE certified group fitness instructor, and a mom to three kids ages under the age of 6. Below she shares some insights about why you should consider making exercise a family affair.

Katie Guffy

Katie Guffey, owner of FitMommy Charleston

1. Parents often use exercise as alone time to decompress. What are the benefits (physical and mental) of carving out time specifically to exercise WITH their kids?

Working out on your own is great, but finding that time can be a challenge for a lot of parents— that doesn't have to be a negative thing! Getting outside to combine exercise and play with your kids can be such a mood booster for the whole family and a great way to recharge while also spending quality time with your kids. Play soccer in the yard, take a walk, go for a jog while your kids ride their bikes, or do some exercises at the playground while your kids play. Keep it simple!

With Fit Mommy Charleston, moms bring their littles along so they can see the workout but also play with other children during the workout. I’ve noticed the benefits are huge! Kids see their moms (or dads at our family workouts) enjoying working out, and this encourages them to want to do the same. Often during a workout, kids will try to copy mom's moves or will enjoy racing mom while she sprints! You can find out more about our group on our website: fitmommycharleston.com

2. How much physical activity do children need each day?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children get 60 minutes of activity a day which can be broken up or split across different activities throughout the day. Activities should involve endurance, strength, and flexibility which may sound complicated but really is not. Taking a walk or a bike ride to the playground provides cardio while playing on the monkey bars involves strength, and climbing on the play structures involves flexibility.

3. Do you have any tips for encouraging children to be physically active and getting them excited about exercising?

Kids are always watching and listening, so the easiest way to get your kids excited about exercise is to have a positive mindset about it for yourself. Kids want quality time with their parents so with a positive attitude from you they will be hooked. Another option is to get involved with local youth team sports. This is a great, cost-effective way for kids to figure out what activities they enjoy most. There usually are opportunities for parents to coach if you are looking to be more involved.

4. Where are your favorite places in the Lowcountry to get moving with your family?

We have a wonderful variety of places around Charleston to explore! In Mt Pleasant, Alhambra Hall has a great playground and is only a jog away from the Pitt Street Bridge. Both of these locations are beautiful places to get moving. Memorial Waterfront Park and Palmetto Island both have plenty of open green spaces, playgrounds, and trails to discover. Daniel Island offers multiple parks including Smythe Park—my kids love the pirate-themed playground, and the trail around Smythe Lake is great for running or walking. Another fun one is Wannamaker Park in North Charleston, which offers plenty of wooded trails and is a great spot for those warm and sunny days when you could use some shade.

5. On cold or rainy days, what are some ways families can still be physically active indoors?

If possible, dressing for the weather and spending time outside (even just a short time) can make a huge difference on those rainy or cold days. But if the weather won’t allow for much time outside, one of my kids’ favorite indoor activities is to do Cosmic Kids Yoga, which you can find on YouTube.

They incorporate stories from some of our kids’ favorite movies, and the movements are super fun and keep kids interested!

Another easy way to get them moving is to play games like Simon Says but involve exercises. For example, “Simon says do 10 jumping jacks”, or “hop on one foot”, “run up and down the stairs”, “crawl like a bear”, etc. It doesn’t have to be complicated!

6. What are some other family-friendly activities that parents may not even realize are considered exercise?

Grabbing chalk and playing hopscotch teaches balance and coordination. Riding scooters or bikes, or walking/running to and from school can be an easy way to fit in extra active time for the family. As mentioned earlier, playing at the park or playground. Taking a walk at the beach (even on a cool day) is a fun way to change things up! Shoot some hoops or try out rock climbing at James Island Park. In the summer months, playing at the pool or splash parks. The possibilities are endless so get outside every day, and remember to keep it simple and have fun!