Listening to “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” for the 100th time, I couldn’t help but get stuck on one verse: “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.” It got me thinking how stressful a long holiday break can be on the entire family without a plan to keep kids stimulated and cheerful.
While it’s common to get caught up in all the holiday hubbub, it’s important to remember to embrace time with loved ones.
One of the best ways to strengthen your relationship and your well-being is by practicing healthy habits as a family unit. This doesn’t mean you have to set your alarm clocks for 5 a.m. and line up military-style for an aerobic boot camp. (Not unless your kids are on the naughty list this year.) Rather, get creative with games that double as exercise and excitement.
Here are my favorite fitness-related holiday hobbies to keep your family happy and healthy during winter break:
Bingeing holiday classics is a popular pastime for many families. So why not weave in a fun workout while watching. You’ll be surprised how competitive (in a good way) kids get with a challenge such as this.
Each time you see or hear the following things, perform the corresponding exercise. When playing, feel free to modify exercises to your fitness level.
Ice Skating: 10 jumping jacks
Shoveling: 1 push-up
Snow: 3 jump squats
Holiday lights: 20-second group hug
Bells jingling: 5 sofa squats
The great outdoors
While the weather outside may feel frightful, an outdoor play date can be so delightful. You never know whether you’re going to wake up to a balmy 60-degree day in December or to snow, so don’t let the weather deter you from exploring the sights and sounds of the season. A Swedish friend once told me, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” So bundle up and step out.
After lunch or dinner, do something as simple as going for a family stroll. This creates a safe space to discuss your favorite moments from the holidays and hopes for the new year, or even take a moment to share one thing that makes you proud of each family member. The goal is to foster a jolly feeling that encourages future walks together and more opportunities to bond.
Fitness isn’t entirely about physical health. Mental health must also be prioritized to achieve total wellness. With that in mind, consider scheduling a short session each week where the entire family focuses on breathing and meditating.
Having the ability to harness a stress-reducing skill such as belly breathing or meditating, is a powerful tool for children who tend to have tantrums, or adults that may react poorly when under pressure. Just like any exercise, it takes weekly reps to grow stronger. Here’s how it works:
Give your family some notice that you will be having a mindful Monday meeting. It will be 10 minutes dedicated to chilling out. No phones are permitted, and turn off other devices such as the television. Encourage bringing your favorite blanket to sit on, or for little ones, a cuddly stuffed animal to snuggle.
Once everyone is comfortable, close your eyes, place one hand on your chest and another on your belly, and breathe slowly together. Encourage children to try focusing on their breathing, with inhales and exhales smooth and even from the tummy. If a distracting thought comes to mind, don’t get frustrated. Acknowledge it, then picture it floating away like a cloud in the sky. Get back to centering on your breath.
Stay in this moment for 10 minutes. When complete, discuss how it made everyone feel. If well-received, aim to make this a weekly family activity.
A family that plays together, stays healthy together.
Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. Learn more about her virtual training program at ashleyblakefitness.com.