Teaching children to love exercise when they're young can inspire a lifetime of fitness.
The key is to keep the focus on "playing" exercise games or sports, because the moment they becomes "work," the kids will tune you out and turn off. For example, when I tried to sign my son up for a basketball camp, he said, "No thanks, Mom. That's like a job — that's not fun." He promptly told me that playing basketball with his dad or his friends was fun, but not the basketball camp.
Now that he's a little older and I'm a little wiser, I listen more and seriously consider his concerns. So now, less Tiger mom, and more like chief cheerleader and fun finder. It's been my experience that finding the sweet spot and tapping into the joy is the best way to inspire us humans, young and old.
Intellectually, most parents know that children need exercise just as much as adults do, but often times this is easier said than done. That's why I recommend that you bring your kids to the club — you both can have a good time and a workout. When my son was a toddler, I was thrilled to find a fitness facility that included a kids' club, which many clubs now offer. While I was working out, I could peak through the window and see my child romping, rolling, and running around in the kids' club. I was able to get a workout, but, perhaps most importantly, it planted early seeds in my child that developed into an appreciation and desire to exercise.
Even as your child grows, the emphasis should be on keeping exercise fun and creative. I find that during the elementary years, kids are really attracted to activities like yoga, swimming, soccer and rock climbing. By the way, during this stage, they also really like to challenge you and see what you're made of.
Once their in the teen years, many kids genuinely enjoy the gym atmosphere and working out. Many, if not most gyms, offer junior memberships to youths as young as 14, and many kids enjoy weightlifting, swimming, jogging, and group fitness classes.
Believe it or not, even that old stationary bike and those dusty dumbbells will inspire your kids to get the exercise bug. You are your kids role model, and they love nothing more than mimicking you. If the equipment is there and you use it, they'll use it.
Charity fun runs and 5k races are another way to entice your kids not only into exercising, but also making new friends, and doing good works. These are great ways for parents to lead by example, give back, and raise awareness about social causes for the next generation.
Family fitness vacations can be tons of fun. Imagine zip lining through the Amazon, white water rafting, or Galapagos Island hopping. If that is just too adventurous for you, how about going on a family bike tour, camping, or a tropical vacation to the islands for snorkeling, sailing, and surfing. All of these destinations deliver great family fun, and the exercise is seamlessly integrated into the process.