Whether you have goals, resolutions, visions, mantras or targets for the New Year, one popular topic on people’s minds is exercise. And why not? In addition to helping prevent a slew of diseases and health conditions, exercise and physical activity help manage weight, boost energy and improve mood.
Exercising as a family is a great way to connect with your kids and encourages them to make physical activity a priority. “A family that exercises together, stays healthy together,” says Glynis Eckert, Director of Marketing & Partnerships at The Salvation Army Kroc Center. “Being active is so important for physical and mental health, and being active as a family pushes that one step further by providing a way to bond and grow together.” Making exercise a family affair also encourages teamwork and helps teach the importance of setting and accomplishing goals.
So how do you encourage kids to take screen breaks and exercise with you? Easy. Just focus on F-U-N. Kids are more likely to be physically active when they’re doing activities they enjoy. Here are unique ways to get your family started.
Photo courtesy of Laura Haver
JOIN PICKLEBALL FEVER
This fast-growing racket sport has exploded in popularity in recent years and has been a “hit” with young and old alike. “Pickleball is one of the most recent popular programs on campus,” says Eckert. “We started with a twice weekly offering and now we have pickleball almost every day of the week. It’s definitely a sport that parents and children can play together.”
Combining elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong, pickleball can be played in singles or doubles using solid paddles and a perforated ball on a court with a low net. It is easy to learn and a great way for the family to get moving.
Ready to get your game on? Certified pickleball instructor Ray Smith offers classes for kids at The Westwood Club in Rancho Bernardo. Enrollment is open to members and non-members. The next eight-week session, which starts the week of Jan. 9, will accommodate beginners in at least two different age groups (starting at age 8). Coach Smith will have junior-sized paddles to use on the first day of class to help determine what size you’ll need to purchase.
Once you’ve got the basics down, there are local recreation centers and parks with pickleball courts that families can use for free. For details, visit www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/pballlocations.pdf. Be sure to call in advance to confirm courts are open and to reserve a spot, if needed.
While there are not a lot of organized pickleball programs for kids right now, the good news is that some local schools are offering it in PE. According to Smith, this will be a big year for the sport. "The U.S. Tennis Association is starting to promote pickleball, so more programs for kids should be available within the year."
PICKLEBALL CLASSES & CLINICS
Ray Smith Pickleball
Beginning classes for kids ages 8 & up in Rancho Bernardo
Salvation Army Kroc Center
Open play sessions and pickleball lessons for age 18+
YMCA of San Diego County
Open play, clinics (for 18+) and private lessons in various locations
READY, SET, RUN (OR WALK) A 5K
There are many family-friendly 5K events in San Diego that feature different themes and support-worthy causes. According to Road Runners Club of America, it is appropriate for kids ages 8–12 to start participating in 5K runs. For families with younger kids, a lot of 5Ks offer “dash runs” (from a few yards to 400 meters) and fun runs (half mile to one mile) to get little ones involved. Remember, walking is also always an option.
If you’re ready to jump in, give yourselves about 6–8 weeks to prepare for the race. Running apps like Couch to 5K help you get race-ready and keep everyone on track. Take it slow and easy to build strength and endurance. Children should build up to longer distances over time. Make sure to encourage kids with praises and high-fives along the way.
Not ready to commit to a 5K just yet? Get an idea of what to expect (and how much fun it can be) by volunteering as a family at an event. It just might get the kids excited and motivated to prepare for their own race.
UPCOMING LOCAL 5K EVENTS
- Mermaid Half Marathon (5K and Mermaid Dash for kids as young as 6) along Mission Bay on Feb. 25
- San Diego Leprechaun Run (with a Kids 1K run) in Pacific Beach on March 11
- Hot Chocolate 5K in Downtown San Diego on March 19
- Race for Autism Superhero 5K and 1-Mile Family Walk in Balboa Park on April 1
For details on the above events, visit www.sandiegofamily.com/resources/family-health-and-home.
NEED MORE IDEAS TO GET YOUR HEARTS PUMPING?
- Play old school games like Red Light Green Light, hopscotch and freeze tag.
- Head out on a kayak.
- Dance your heart out at a Zumba party.
- Learn some cool moves while ice skating.
- Jump, climb, swing and flip with parkour.
- Scale a rock wall.
- Play an exhilarating round of disc golf.
- Shake those hips with a hula hoop.
- Go on a brisk nature hike.
- Embark on a splashy adventure with paddle boarding.
Never lose sight of the most important aspect of exercising as a family: to have fun!
Jennifer Burman is a freelance writer who loves dancing Zumba with her kids.