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Natural Awakenings National

Kid's Gym: Play As Exercise

Jul 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By Jen Lemen

Summer is here and kids are running wild with boundless energy. Why not join them? Playing with your kids and their friends is a good way to bond with them. It’s also a quicker and easier route to keeping in shape than going to the gym.

Twenty minutes of sustained play—running, jumping or dancing—three to four times a week, builds energy, improves cardiovascular health, helps overall mood, decreases tension, tones muscles and aids sleep. The following family games all offer a minimum 20 minutes of activity that will get your heart pumping and provide fun for all.

Tag–You’re It!

You’ll be amazed at the endless variations of tag that have emerged since you were in grade school. Ask your kids to educate you about the latest recess tag incarnation and then, declare yourself to be “It.”

Take the long way to get to your slowest little one, putting all your effort into exaggerated steps, while you swing out those arms. Let your oldest give you a run for your money and enjoy being tagged over and over again. The delight on your children’s faces does a body good in more ways than one. A 20- to 30-minute workout will pass in no time.

Jump for Joy

Forget everything you’ve ever said about jumping on the bed. Treat your kids to seven minutes of insanity by playing every jumping game you all can imagine. Start with a bedroom tour to find the bounciest beds, followed by a hop down the hall and through the living room. Keep your heart rate up after your seven minutes inside by taking it outside.  Learn the jump rope rhymes de jour and hop ’til you drop. It’s great for calves, arms, delts and abs. Cool down with a little hopscotch, followed by a skip to the freezer, where homemade popsicles await.

Marathon Mania

Invite neighborhood kids to a special race against the clock as you find out how many laps you can run around your house, apartment, car, yard or dining room table in five minutes. Fall down on the ground in a dizzy display of exhaustion. Then, get up and do it again and again. Push yourself to see how long you can hang with your most active preschooler.

Award medals of distinction, made out of crepe paper and recycled aluminum foil, to everyone who ran the race. Little kids will love reporting to their parents and friends how they conquered 20 or 200 laps with you by their side.

Shake What Your Mama Gave You

Turn up the radio in the kitchen and work up a sweat showing youngsters how to dance the night away. Just 20 minutes, rocking to five to six songs, will get your heart pumping and show everybody who’s still got it going on. Don’t be surprised if you want to keep going.  Kids love to show off their own moves and appreciate your willingness to get down in the name of playful fun. Impromptu dance parties are the perfect intervention for couch potato kids’ longing for something fun to do this summer.

Jen Lemen is a freelance writer, illustrator and doula in Silver Spring, Maryland. Connect at

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