How to Stay Active When You Have A Family

Lego Family

Staying active can feel like an uphill battle.

It seems like there’s always something getting in the way of your routine: an emergency at work, an impending deadline at school, a friend in town to visit, or the next quest in your favorite RPG that won’t stop calling your name.

It can be hard enough dodging all of life’s obstacles, but when you have a family it’s like playing the game of life on legendary difficulty. After all, it’s easy to feel guilty after spending all day away from your loved ones while working, and then asking for even MORE time away to focus on leveling up your life.

You might be wondering, is it possible to stay active, and healthy, AND spend tons of quality time with your family?

As a parent, staying active and being healthy isn’t just about you finding time to take care of business, but about cultivating a mindset and habits to keep the whole family on track. It’s about finding a way for you ALL to enjoy healthy habits.

Today we’re going to talk about how your family can spend some quality time together WHILE being active together.

Are you actually enjoying yourself?!

Running against the grain

We often think of exercise as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. When fitness is looked at as a chore, it’s a REALLY tough habit to build. Factor in a few kiddies, a loving husband/wife, and the inevitable unexpected surprises that comes with a family, and it’s easy how exercising gets moved to the bottom of the to-do list (right above “voluntary root canal).

So, we need to start with actually enjoying ourselves! It’s one more day above the roses, and that’s a damn good day to be alive, right?

When looking to find ways to stay active with your family, always start from a point of fun and work your way backwards. “What can I do that makes me happy and feel alive, and also happens to get my heart racing?”

That’s the theory behind the “playout”: exercise doesn’t have to feel like a chore. In fact, exercise can be damn fun. Especially when you get your kids involved! Think about it – kids get to roll around in the mud, climb on stuff, make up imaginary games (the ground is lava!), and they are having so much fun that they don’t realize they’re exhausted and breathing heavy and just had an awesome workout.

So, I hereby give you permission to act like a giant child.

  • Take your kids for a hike one afternoon, even if it’s into the woods in your back yard, and you pretend to be explorers. Ever read Bridge to Terabithia? You’d be surprised what kids can create with their imagination.
  • Create a game or contest with them. “The ground is lava,” “who can do the most cartwheels,” etc. Have fun with it! Just get outside and be active. It’s the PERFECT time of year.
  • Get dirty. Roll down hills. Jump in puddles. Climb trees. Just have some freaking fun with it – this is a chance to bond with your kids in a way that will both improve YOUR life AND their lives. Win-win, sucka!

Now, let’s say you still enjoy doing structured exercise, but maybe life is too busy now that you have kids…we’re gonna look to an 80s TV star for help.

MacGuyver it.

Family beach

With kids and families, every minute counts.

We all know that eating right is 80-90% of the battle, so that final 10% can come in any type of exercise you can fit in, whenever you can fit it in.

Things aren’t gonna go according to plan, and you’re not going to always have that perfect 60-minute window to get to the gym. So you need to become MacGuvyer, and ALWAYS have a plan B (and a plan C) for when things go wrong. It’s funny, but once you stop accepting and allowing yourself to use excuses as to why you’re not exercising, suddenly finding the time to get it done takes care of itself.

What’s that? You are busy from the time the kids wake up til the time they go to bed? Wake up just 5 minutes earlier, and try the PLP Challenge (using a door frame pull up bar) so you don’t even have to leave your bedroom!

Your turn to watch the kids? Create contests and “backyard olympics!” tinfoil medals (like in the Office). Then you can inspire your kids with great feats of strength: push ups with a kid on your back (or planks), hikes with a kid riding piggy back, whatever. Heck, you can even do pull ups while your kid is on the swingset, or teach your kids to do handstands!

Feeling crazy? Do pull ups with your kid on your back. Hey, if NF Rebel Bronwyn can do it, why not you someday?

Do something! I don’t care what you do, but it’s vital for you to do something. I’m trying to play more music, so my keyboard and guitar are RIGHT in the middle of my living room. Not surprisingly, I’m playing more music than I ever have in the past. 5 minutes is enough time to do some push ups, or squats, or hang out in a plank. Sure, you might get funny looks from the other parent, but wouldn’t you much rather be known as “that weird in shape parent that does push ups” than “the really overweight unhealthy parent”?

Exercise is not all or nothing. It’s not “I need 60 minutes or why bother.” It’s “do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.” You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Become MacGuyver, and exercise anytime, anywhere. Your offspring will thank you for instilling that habit in them!

My favorite response


Now, admittedly I don’t have any children (heck, I don’t even have an imaginary girlfriend).

But, I do have a giant family of about 197,000 nerds, many of whom DO have families! So, last week we asked the Nerd Fitness Community: “How do YOU stay active with your family?”

We had a TON of great responses (which we’ll get to shortly). I wanted to share with you my favorite response from Haikoo, who explains that staying active can be incredibly easy when the family doesn’t realize it’s “exercise.”

We tend to have the most success when they don’t realize it’s exercise :).  We go to the park and kick around the soccer balls or shoot hoops. They love to fly kites–if you go on a not terribly windy day, the only way they can get their kite to fly is RUN! 

They don’t even realize they are wearing themselves out :). Hikes are great as well as swimming. Anything disguised as a game. They also love to ride their bikes or get into little challenges at home on the living room floor. “I can do xx pushups, how many can you do?”

I love this answer, as it really reinforces the need to look at fitness as something other than fitness. You’re not exercising to lose weight, or because you “should exercise,” but because you’re having fun and challenging yourself in a way that doesn’t feel like exercise.

I find that I have the MOST success with improving my health and physique when my goals are focused completely on something OTHER than my health and physique!

Some More Tips from the Rebellion


Along with the great response above, our awesome community answered the call and provided TONS of excellent insight and experience.

Remember – we’re all in this together. Don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel when you have your fellow Rebels fighting the same battle alongside you.

Here are some of our favorite responses:

Steffen used technology and gamification to his advantage:

We tried geocaching this weekend in a large forest with hills. Seems like a great form of family exercise. Our kids at 4 and 6 loved it

Chris has found a way to incorporate his six year old daughter into his workouts.

My six year old daughter and I do things together. She rounds up us adults for walks and we’ve done daddy/daughter kettlebell workouts together. My tip is to include them in what I’m doing. If your little ones have a passion or “wanna be just like you” let them. Sure they may not be able to keep up or have great form, but it’s our job to show them that it’s fun and to encourage them to start these healthy habits early.

@SkaSchmidt instilled a love of exercise early:

My 2 and a half year old loves doing a little circuit of running and pushups in the backyard. My 5 week old, not so much though.

Diana reminds us that this doesn’t have to be complicated:

My dad and I used to cut wood and move for the open fire together.

ShortGorilla has instilled a love for exercise:

My kids like to do pushups and situps and stuff with me. And they’ll watch me lift in the basement sometimes. They like to do bodyweight exercises and run with me for ‘treasure coins’. We try to teach them that exercise is fun and rewarding. The kids will a combination of squats, burpees, situps, pushups, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers. My four year old likes to pretend to clean and press too.

Bari prefers a more formal route to stay connected with his family:

My siblings and I do a 5ks together even though we live in different cities.

@josh_crocker turns everything into a game:

We have young children and make all of it a playful game. Family walks, tag, hide and seek.

Raev recognizes the wisdom of not forcing activities you don’t find enjoyable:

I have a teenage daughter as well. She doesn’t really care about exercising but this coming weekend we are driving to a good hiking spot, so we can all hike to the waterfalls. Where she doesn’t care about exercising, she loves the outdoors – so we do things outdoors where she can get moving and get the heart rate up in a way she finds fun, so she doesn’t even realize dear ole dad is making her exercise. Hiking, exploring, climbing, swimming…these are the things I do with her.

Healthy families are strong families

Family Landscape

I want to leave you with one final thought: you’re a superhero to your family, whether you realize it or not.

You are your kids’ (or your partner’s) biggest hero; it’s time to decide what kind of superpower you have. Is it super strength? Lightning fast reflexes? Or the ability to sit on the couch and watch TV for hours on end? How you act will determine the health and habits your family builds too.

They will do what you do, not what you say to do.

If we can instill the habit of health, fitness, and happiness in ourselves, our families are more likely to grow up healthy and not deal with the health issues that come with being overweight and out of shape.

I’d love to hear from you – in case you didn’t get a chance to chime in before.

If you have a busy life and a family to take care of, how do you find time to exercise?


PS: Early Bird Pricing for Camp Nerd Fitness ends and prices go up Sunday at midnight! We’ve already got 100+ rebels joining us, and spots are filling up fast. See you there 🙂

PPS: We’re hiring! Nerd Fitness is looking for a rockstar designer to join our team (which just recently got bigger with the addition of NF Rebels Page and Noel). Details are on our “work with us” page.


photo source: Chuck Coker: Light Bulb, glynlowe: family, Kristina Alexanderson: Lego Family, Thomas Leuthard: Against the Grain, Thomas Leuthard: beach

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