9 ways to get your family active (that you definitely haven’t tried)
Whether you’re looking to fill holiday days or weekends, here is our pick of new activities to keep your family active and entertained through the half term
Half-term is almost here again meaning that, once more, parents across the land will be desperately figuring out how to keep their children off screens and avoid the dreaded phrase ‘I’m bored’.
However, rather than simply ticking off the days, see this time as an opportunity to discover some new ways to keep fit as a family (especially if your usual hikes and bike rides have lost their shine post-lockdown).
“As a child, the more you see your parents exercising, the more likely you are to see it as part of your life and carry on as you get older,” says Jonny Kibble, Vitality’s Head of Exercise & Physical Activity.
“And the more activities you can try with kids at an early age, the more likely they’ll find something they love.” It isn’t just about fitness, though.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, trying a fun activity together – such as skateboarding or climbing – is a way to ‘make memories’ and notch up some quality family time. (These half-terms might feel endless now, but we promise you’ll miss them when they’re gone…)
So, why not give one of the following ideas a go? It might kindle a new passion for you and your kids.
The activity: Climbing
There are 400-plus indoor climbing centres around the UK and most offer sessions for children as well as adults.
Indoor bouldering, in particular, is great for kids: this simpler, less daunting form of climbing involves scaling shorter walls (typically, no more than 4m high) with crash mats at the bottom, and no harnesses required. Kids can try it from as young as 4 or 5.
Find your local centre at the British Mountaineering Council’s Climbing Wall Finder.
While kids will mainly be focused on the adrenalin thrills, there are plenty of fitness wins for mums and dads.
“Climbing is good for coordination and a great workout for the upper body, including your wrists, biceps and back,” says Jonny. It’s also a good mental challenge.
“There’s a problem-solving element to climbing as you have to plan a route.”
There are psychological benefits, too. By its very nature, climbing pushes you out of your comfort zone, which builds confidence, whatever your age.
“It encourages you to conquer your fears as a group – for example, of heights – and that can bring you closer together as a family,” says Jonny.
If you’d prefer to scramble up a real rock-face, look for outdoor climbing experiences. Hatt Adventures in Kent offers bespoke experiences for £35 per person, with over-eights welcome.
The activity: Obstacle course race
The number of obstacle course races (OCRs) in the UK has mushroomed in recent years.
These typically involve scrambling, army-style, through a series of nets, walls, tunnels and water features, amidst tons of mud. While the original challenges were adults-only, many now feature kids’ versions on the same day.
For example, OCR stalwart Tough Mudder has Lidl Mudder, a 1-mile course for 5 to 12-year-olds.
Not mad about mud? Try a superfun Inflatable 5K run, where you navigate a series of bouncy obstacles – they’re open to everyone aged 5 and upwards, so ideal for families.“Conquering an obstacle race together gives a sense of achievement, and you may get a medal,” says Jonny.
“You’re going through hard times together so are likely to bond. And you’ll probably get wet and muddy, something kids tend to enjoy. There might also be an element of training required you can do as a group.”
The activity: Dance party
There’s nothing like dancing to lift your spirits – Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Kitchen Discos during lockdown showed the simple power of music and movement to cheer us up in tough times and bring families closer.
Why not take inspiration from her during half-term by hosting your own dance party? Make things formal: set a time and date, maybe even a themed dress code.
Ask each family member to choose a few tracks for a playlist and award prizes for the best dancer.
For a bigger event, send invites to your extended family: it’s an excuse to get cousins, grandparents, aunties and uncles round for a knees-up. You could also share a YouTube routine for everyone to learn.
“As adults we often view fun and fitness as something separate, seeing the latter as going to the gym or for a run,” Jonny adds.
“But something like dancing still helps your health, even if you aren’t doing it for fitness reasons. It gets your heart rate up, requires good mobility and coordination and, if you learn a routine, works your memory as well.”
Prefer to get out of the house? Investigate a family-friendly clubbing event, such as Big Fish Little Fish, where ravers young and old can let off some steam.
The activity: Family yoga
If tensions are rising at home, a family yoga session could be just the ticket – and a way to get mornings off to a chilled start.
“Yoga is good for flexibility, mobility and relaxation, as well as calming things down,” says Jonny.
“And, as with other activities, doing it together helps kids see exercise as part of everyday life.”
Meanwhile, one 2019 study found that practising family yoga might ‘improve children’s self-esteem and enhance closeness’ with caregivers. All good reasons to try that downward dog together.
Look on YouTube for guidance: the popular Cosmic Kids channel is ideal for families with younger children.
Some yoga studios offer in-person family sessions, such as Yoga House in London, while parent and toddler/baby classes are common everywhere.
The activity: Triathlon or duathlon
You might think of triathlons – which involve cycling, running and swimming – and duathlons (running and cycling) as strictly for grown-ups. In fact, a number of events now include categories for children, aged 5 to 7 and upwards – meaning you can kick-start your training programme together this half-term.
A duathlon for younger kids (5 to 7) involves a 100m run, then a 1k bike ride, then a 500m run. By age 13 to 16, that’s a 600m run, 4k bike ride and 2500m run to finish.
For triathlons, you’re looking at a 10-18m swim, 1k bike ride and 500m run for 5- to 7-year-olds and a 150m swim, 4k bike ride and 2500m run for 13- to 16-year-olds.
“All three activities have great cardiovascular benefits,” says Jonny.
“And with a triathlon you’re really going to feel you’ve accomplished something. Plus, the more sports can be introduced to kids at an early age, the better.”
Training together is also a good way to channel sibling rivalry. ‘It provides a bit of healthy competition – and there’s no harm in that,” he adds.
The activity: A new game
Pickleball – the hybrid racquet game mashing up ping-pong and tennis – was apparently invented when two dads began messing about with table-tennis bats and ‘wiffle’ balls back in the 1960s.
In 2021, it was the fastest-growing sport in the US.
Why not copy them and invent your own new ball game or sport this half-term? Gather whatever you have lying around – sponge balls, cricket bats, bean bags, shuttlecocks – and draw up your own rules: the wackier the better.
“The key thing is for you and your kids to enjoy yourselves. Fun and fitness don’t have to be separate.”
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