Sneaking In Fitness

We all know how important exercise is for kids – and how little of it they sometimes get.

Children and adolescents should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. With the busy schedules we often keep, you may be wondering just how to make that happen. Any extra time you can extend in this area is well worth the effort though. “There are numerous advantages to exercise,” says Rachel Horton, Fitness Director at the Mayerson JCC. These include stronger muscles/bones, a reduced risk of being overweight, improved sleep and “a better outlook on life,” she says. Joyce Szolek Greeley, Girls Gym Jam Department Leader at Kids First Sports Center, agrees. “Sneaking in fitness is the best thing parents can do,” she says. “You do not want exercise to be a chore or seen as a punishment.”

How can you take the “work” out of “working out” and slide in some extra physical activity in your family’s day? Check out a few of these ideas.

Got fifteen extra minutes?

  • Play to your kids’ competitive nature. “Children love to be timed,” says Szolek Greeley. “See how fast or how long it takes them to run to [a specific] tree or any object.”
  • Enjoy some fresh air. Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids by Rebecca Cohen is packed with quick, simple ways to engage with the outdoors year round.
  • Dance to a favorite song, suggests Horton. You can extend the workout by letting family members take turns choosing different tunes.
  • Need to get somewhere that’s close? Try walking, biking, scootering or roller blading there. If you must drive, park a short distance away from your destination to sneak in some extra steps.

Got an extra hour?

  • Use TV time to incorporate movement. Szolek Greeley suggests having kids stretch their muscles during their favorite show and using commercial breaks to do jumping jacks or other exercise.
  • Try some new games with the neighborhood crowd.  PBS Kids offers a huge list of suggestions at Zoom Games. Choose from “Clothespin Tag,” “3 Ball Football,” “Crab Soccer” and many more.
  • Sign your child up for an organized sport. The Mayerson JCC offers everything from swimming to soccer, while the schedule at Kids First Sports Center includes gymnastics, fencing, yoga and more.
  • Take a long stroll around your neighborhood or local park. Make the route more interesting by listening for bird calls, identifying flowers and trees or looking for insects.

Got a whole day?

  • Check out the Cheetah Run at the Cincinnati Zoo which provides a perfect combination of animals and exercise.
  • Sign up to walk or run a charity 5K or 10K as a family. Even before race day rolls around, you should log plenty of active family time preparing for the big day. You’ll find literally hundreds of area events listed at
  • Take a road trip to one of Ohio’s great state parks. You’ll find waterfalls at Hocking Hills State Park, disc golf at Alum Creek State Park and swimming at Deer Creek State Park. Start the search for your perfect park at
  • Head to RockQuest for a fun and challenging rock climbing workout. Participants must be at least 13 to belay, but kids of any age can climb. If your family is new to the sport consider signing up for a group lesson to help you get started.

This list is just a starting point – the Cincinnati area offers practically endless opportunities for residents seeking an active lifestyle. Make your own “favorites” list of the physical activities your family enjoys most and pretty soon you won’t have to “sneak” fitness in at all!

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