I’m a healthy-lifestyle pro with two very energetic kids. My 9-year-old daughter does gymnastics, dance and figure skating. My 7-year-old son plays basketball and ice hockey, and he just started tae kwon do. My job includes testing workouts and studios, plus I’m a certified kids’ gymnastics trainer and general workout-group instructor. I’ve also taught Pilates for years. Needless to say, physical activity is a big deal in our family.
At the start of the year, both of my kids told me they wanted to become stronger, faster and more confident in their chosen sports. My own fitness goals were similar, so we set up a challenge to work out together: one session every day until midwinter recess.
I’m happy to say we hit our goal—and you can do the same with your kids. Here’s what works for us: I let my kids choose from a variety of simple but effective moves to keep things fun. They also love listening to their favorite music during our sessions together. And I believe in keeping things light and silly—a mama’s positive energy is contagious.
I’ve broken down some of our favorite moves below. After completing the warm-up, choose one move from each category, aiming to stay active for about 20 minutes total. That’s all it takes to strengthen your bod and set an awesome healthy example for your kids—the ultimate win-win.
The grab bag: Do any combination of jumping jacks, high steps and booty kicks. As a variation for big kids, try counting the reps they can complete in 1 minute of each. If your kids are young, try making it a game, shouting “freeze” every few seconds to keep them guessing. Once your tribe is huffing and puffing with pink cheeks and goofy smiles, you’re ready to begin.
THE MOVES: CHOOSE 1 FROM EACH CATEGORY
The crab: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched forward and feet hip-distance apart. Place your hands on the floor behind your back with fingers facing hips. Lift hips off the floor and tighten your abs. This intense upper-body exercise also works your core. Try a family game of crab tag!
Upward-facing dog: Lie on your belly. Bend arms and place palms facedown on the floor next to your shoulders. Look up, then straighten your arms to raise your chest, pressing palms into the floor and breathing deeply to expand the ribcage. This works the chest muscles and helps build a flexible back.
Easy-peasy push-ups: Begin in a forward-leaning kneeling position with hands below shoulders, and knees behind hips. Keep your back straight and abs tight. Bend your elbows until your chest touches the floor. Slowly straighten arms to return to the starting position.
Moves for the abs and core
Timed plank: Lie facedown on the mat, then raise your body on your elbows and toes. Keep your back and neck straight, and tighten your ab muscles. Hold plank pose for as long as you’re able. Thirty seconds is a pretty good start for kids (not to mention many adults)—and progress is often quick. After a month, my kids could hold a plank for 2 minutes!
Simple sit-ups: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet hip-distance apart. Place hands on the back of your head, with elbows pointing outward. Pull your belly button in toward your spine as you lift your torso to meet your thighs. Return to the starting position…with control. (Kids may need their feet gently held to the mat.)
Leg and lower-body moves
The frog: Stand with straight feet, shoulder-width apart. Squat as low you comfortably can, then jump into the air like a happy frog. Challenge each other to see how many frog jumps can you do in 30 seconds. Try leaping forward and have a frog race!
Tippy-toes: Stand with knees relaxed and feet hip-distance apart. Lift heels from the floor and extend ankles as high as possible. Hold for a few beats, then slowly lower to the starting position. Repeat until you feel the burn in your calves.
Invisible bike ride: Sit on the floor, then lean back on your elbows with palms facedown at your sides. Raise legs so shins are parallel to the floor. Make cycling motions with your legs. Speed it up! Who can make it to the top of the mountain? Who can keep their legs spinning to the end of the song?
The bear: Place hands and feet on the floor and raise hips to form a bridge. Creep forward like a bear. This strengthening and stabilizing cardio exercise involves nearly all your muscle groups! Make it fun by competing in a bear race around the house.
Downward dog: Kneel, then lean forward with arms outstretched and palms flat on the floor. Lift your hips into the air, straighten your legs and press your heels towards the floor. Push your chest toward your thighs and feel the stretch. Then play! Look between your knees, wag your “tail,” bark, and try holding the pose on one leg.
Tree pose: Stand on your right leg, bend the left knee and place the sole of the left foot on the right inner thigh. Stretch your arms overhead and let your palms meet. Sway like a tree in the breeze while you balance. Repeat on the opposite side.
Child’s pose: Kneel on the floor with your bum to your heels. Keeping arms relaxed at your sides, lower your upper body until your forehead rests in front of your knees. Take a few deep breaths. You did it!