A family fitness program is a great way to encourage families to live a healthy lifestyle. It can be an excuse to have fun together and nurture a deeper family connection. Children learn from their parents, so it's safe to say that a child from a family of marathon runners is probably going to lead a more active life then a children from a family that does not exercise regularly. It's important for children to learn by example, but running on a treadmill is probably not an 8 year old's idea of a good time...at least not for more then five minutes. So how do you find activities that the whole family can enjoy together while staying active? It's easier than you think!
Ready, Set, Play!
Kids love to play and have fun; so make exercise something they look forward to each day by turning it into a game. Maybe you have a basketball court at your gym? Why not schedule a family game once a week? Figure out what your client's family is interested in and give it a try. Have families ease into a program - start slow at first, and encourage goal setting. Goal setting can help highlight everyone's progress and avert frustration when instant expertise isn't achieved. For example, maybe your clients have expressed an interest in yoga because they really want to learn handstands. There are several poses that can strengthen muscles and lead up to a flawless handstand, but these won't be mastered after one class. Try to guide your clients through a few different steps to 'mastering the handstand' and how they can set small, yet fulfilling goals. Taking this step in your program will help you and your client track gradual progress, set obtainable goals and turn training into a fun game.
Try new activities to keep family fitness fun and fresh. If something doesn't seem to be working for your client, don't force it. We aren't all going to embrace yoga or swimming, so don't be afraid to look for the perfect fit for your client. If they become uninterested in doing one activity, have them participate in another that will fill the time-frame with something that is welcomed by all members of the family. Variety is the key to keeping exercise fun and helps keep everyone engaged in the activity.
Creating a Family Fitness Program for Your Gym
If you are looking to start a family fitness program at the gym you own or work at, consider whether or not there is demand. If families seem to be utilizing a certain aspect of your gym, consider reserving a block of time for "family hours" or offering a class at this time. Juggling multiple schedules can be difficult, so we encourage you to create an easy-to-follow schedule. Take school and work schedules into consideration when offering family-friendly activities for more participation.
Weekends or summer programs are great times to keep kids active when they aren't in school and can also relieve parents when they need some free-time in their schedule. A routine schedule will also keep families committed to a certain activity, since that block of time is already reserved on their schedule, there is less room to make an excuse. Once everyone is in a routine the family fitness program it will feel easier, more natural, and will be something everyone can look forward to and plan for.
Personal Training: This is a great way to offer a personalized program that is tailored to different types of interests and activity levels. Personal trainers can provide valuable insight, help track progress and introduce new techniques. Encourage families to sign up for a personal trainer on a trial basis or offer a free session. Families focused on joining the gym to play games might think of personal trainers as being geared towards individuals focused on weight-loss or strength training and might never consider it as a valuable resource for them. Make sure personal trainers are on the same page as the families when teaching discipline while keeping the activity fun.
Host or Plan an Event: If there are multiple families participating in their own fitness programs why not bring them together for a group softball game, a relay race or another type of organized sporting event. Schedule something in advance on a day when most families are available. Charging an entry fee is a good way to ensure commitment and also gain some revenue. Maybe you could use a portion of the entry fee to purchase t-shirts or hats for the teams on game day.
Get Involved in the Community: Organize a group of interested families to attend a walk for charity or a physically active community event. Collect the entry fee, complete the needed paperwork and take care of the necessary legwork to make it even easier for families to participate. Taking part in a community charity event will introduce you to new people while also contributing to a good cause.
Participate in Outdoor Activities: Offer field trips to a nearby state park for a hike or organize a scavenger hunt outside in a nearby park. Be safe and don't take on more than the group can handle. Sometimes a change of scenery or fresh air is all it takes to get the family motivated.
Educate Families on the Importance of Health & Fitness: There is more to a family fitness program than spending a certain amount of time at the gym. Teach parents that maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle continues when you return home for dinner or work on a list of household chores. Start educating your clients on the importance of healthy, well-balanced diets and meal choices. At AFPA, we are huge advocates for 'leading by example." So encourage parents to eat healthy if they want their children to eat healthy too!
Keep it Fun!
The most effective family fitness programs are fun for everyone involved. Encourage your clients to relax, have fun, and more importantly, enjoy spending time as a family. Remind them that even if they missed a session or activity at the gym, it doesn't mean they can't make up for that time by doing other activities.
Encourage your clients to take advantage of every day tasks at home. For example, shoveling snow, raking or picking up toys all involve different degrees of physical activity that are often overlooked. By incorporating a family fitness program, you can help to educate and encourage families to learn the importance of discipline, moderation, setting obtainable goals and help to create and maintain a strong, healthy bond. Healthy lifestyles, when learned at a young age, will often carry on into adulthood, making for a healthier, happier life!
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