Exercising both our body and mind are important to stay fit and healthy, but in an age where computers and the internet dominate our lives, it’s increasingly difficult to get our kids out and about, getting the amount of exercise they need and focussing their minds on something other than a screen.
This is where family activities can help. Nobody wants to insist their children play a sport they don’t want to for them to remain physically fit, nor force them to carry out mental exercises designed for Albert Einstein to make sure their minds are getting a thorough work out as well.
However, you can use the time you spend together as a family to help your children (and yourself!) to get both the mental and physical exercise you need. Here are eight ways to do so…
For the body
Team up in the garden
It may be unbelievable, but did you know that can burn up to 300 calories in 45 minutes of moderately strenuous gardening, which makes working in the garden a great way to stay fit. There are so many benefits to gardening other than the obvious one of exercise, making it an ideal activity for all the family. You’ll be out in the open air, using skills that have served our ancestors for centuries while your kids get to see the fruits of their hard labour – quite literally!
Best of all, those fruits and vegetables you grow can then provide a healthy, organic dinner which is just as good for the mind as the hard work that went into producing them is for the body.
Become a family of cyclists
It’s one of the oldest parent-children traditions there is, teaching your kids how to ride a bike. Why stop once they can tackle that hill without stabilisers though? Going on family bike rides is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon in the summer, exploring the countryside and getting exercise at the same time. It doesn’t have to stop when winter rolls in either – you can get the kids cycling to school or a friend’s house as well. Who knows, you might even have the next Mark Cavendish or Laura Kenny on your hands!
Go to the beach
You probably won’t realise it because of all the fun you are having, but a trip to the beach provides a brilliant way to exercise. There are so many strenuous activities to be had down by the seaside, whether it’s swimming in the sea, climbing rocks, rock-pooling, playing football or Frisbee in the sand or larking and running around. A trip to the beach gets you and your family out in the air and exercising without even knowing.
Playing sport is an activity everyone in the family can do together. Pick up some badminton rackets and look into sports like tennis and badminton are suitable for all genders and ages and you can pair up to play doubles along generation or boys versus girl lines or even mix it completely. You can even take on another lot of family friends at a team game such as rounders, which will forge a sense of teamwork among your family and bring them closer together. Most importantly of all, it will get you running around and get the blood pumping through your body.
For the mind
Solve mysteries together
Solving mysteries is a great way to exercise our minds – and lots of kids love playing the detective, so this is great for them too! There are so many ways you can carry out the mystery and problem-solving tasks, from a game of Cluedo to hiding an item around the house and giving out clues to help your kids find it. For the more adventurous, you could even go for an Escape Room style task of solving problems as a team to get out of a locked building, such as those offered by the Cincinnati Escape Room. They are suitable for all ages and provide a great way to get our minds thinking under pressure.
Learn a new language
Learning a new language helps improve our intelligence, memory, recall skills and it also helps to broaden our horizons. With the number of self-teaching language programmes available these days, it’s also something you can sit down and do together as a family quite easily and cheaply. Before you know it, those awkward moments of trying to use your pigeon French in a restaurant or on a bus on family holidays will be a thing of the past and your kids will benefit hugely from becoming bi-lingual citizens of the world as well.
Play board games
One of the most fun ways to exercise your mind is by playing board games. Set aside a family games night to take each other on at anything from Snakes and Ladders to Uno. Games like Scrabble also have huge educational benefits, improving our vocabularies as well as maths skills in calculating skills while a family game of Monopoly teaches the importance of financial management and further maths when it comes to totting up all that cash that has been earned. Just make sure you have an Oxford English Dictionary on hand for all the inevitable arguments over whether a word actually exists or not!
Read a book together
The brain is like a muscle in that the more we exercise it, the stronger it gets. There is no better way of exercising it than by reading books. Set up a family book club whereby you pick a book, sit down and read it aloud together. As you go along, you can share your thoughts and feelings on the plot and the story so far to ensure you continue thinking about the tale.
Reading books together also provide a great way to start conversations, set out a topic of debate and you can even use it to broach some of the more difficult life subjects you need to have conversations about in a casual and relaxed manner if they come up.