In fact, advocates of Chi Running – a style of running that minimises injury and connects us to the ‘natural’ way of moving – suggest watching a child run to get an idea of how to do it.
It could be argued that running around after kids all day is the best exercise there is, but I will admit that there are times that, rather than join in, I sit on a chair and mime actions whilst my toddler sprints repeatedly round the kitchen table! But if we can make exercise fun, there’s more of a likelihood we’ll forget that we’re actually exercising and get totally into the exuberant joyfulness of moving our bodies. Kids know this best, and a lot of the toys designed with them in mind can be put to good use by their parents. Forget the latest fitness DVD gathering dust on the bookshelf, take a leaf out of your child’s book and have a wild, crazy, free time moving your body. Here’s our round up of five fun activities your kids can teach you about:
Trampoline – Anyone who has rediscovered trampolining through their kids knows the huge rush of euphoria as you bounce into the sky. There’s a reason kids love bouncing on a trampoline – because it’s fun. Trampolining has seen a revival in recent years as a way of getting fit. According to a Nasa study, jumping on a trampoline for 10 minutes is equivalent to a 30-minute run, giving you the same benefits in a third of the time. It’s strengthening for both the leg, bottom and core muscles, helps get the blood pumping and leaves you feeling energised.
Skipping rope – If it’s good enough for Rocky, it’s good enough for you! Even without a moody montage complete with backing track, you’ll notice a real improvement in fitness very quickly using a skipping rope. ‘Jumping rope’, as fitness freaks call it, encourages agility and increases your heart rate: an important factor when aiming to tone up or improve fitness levels. Challenge your kids to a rope skipping contest and see if you can recall some of the skipping rhymes from your own childhood. It gets more hilarious the faster and faster you go!
Hula hoop – I once took my nieces to see Circe de Soleil and was awe-struck by the girl who could get what seemed like a hundred hula hoops spinning on different parts of her body all at the same time. Wow, I thought, I want to do that! Turns out it’s a LOT harder than she made it look. Getting one hula hoop to stay around my waist was an interesting challenge, and certainly made me laugh. But my nieces were my teachers. They effortlessly took to the hula hoop, and it made me think how as women we can become very stuck and stagnant around our pelvic area. Interestingly, a naturopath once said to me that hula-hooping was a very freeing and opening activity for this part of the body, improving flexibility and blood flow to the area, and thus improving fertility and sexual confidence. All the more reason to try and crack the thing! Hula-hooping is also toning for the waist and hips, creating an hour-glass shape and keeping fat from settling unhealthily in these areas.
Climbing frame – Who knew that monkey bars were such a challenge? Once mastered, however, swinging from monkey bars improves endurance and upper body strength. Just when you think you’re going to have to drop down, you can push yourself a little harder. Copy the kids and make monkey noises as you do it! Scaling a climbing frame is also good for agility and dexterity, though it’s best to opt for the big kids’ climbing frame rather than the toddlers’… Lots of play areas now have more challenging activities for older kids. Seek out a woodland playground with lots of high rise challenges and, rather than sit on the sidelines, get stuck in and have fun.
Dancing – My toddler is my greatest teacher when it comes to having a dance. He does whole body shake-downs, knee popping, and other boggling breakdance moves I can only dream of pulling off. (I did, in fact, try and join him with the knee popping – an ill-advised move on a stone floor.) Dancing is a fantastic way to help kids let off steam and have a huge amount of silly fun with them. Not only that, but it is a toning and strengthening activity for the body. Depending on whether you’re waltzing to Mozart or leaping around to the Prodigy, you’ll notice your heart rate escalate and your breathing quicken. As much fitness experts now recognise the benefits of intense bursts of exercise, rather than a prolonged steady slog, putting a blast of music on every couple of hours is a great way to keep fit and entertain the kids.