Uncommon ways to exercise (aka playing with the neighborhood kids)


If you didn’t already know, I’m not married nor do I have children. The closest is my 11-year-old brother since I am old enough to be his mother! But there are a fair number of little kids around my block who are just great kids.

One of the reasons I hear most that people can’t exercise is they can’t get to a gym. Well, the last time I worked out in a gym was because I also worked there so I had a free membership. Ninety-nine percent of the rest of the time, I’m using DVDs or outside getting in my exercise.

So what do kids have to do with this? Simple, including them in your exercise routine or playing can go a long way in building your health and your relationships with your kids, no matter their age.

Since I have no kids, it’s not uncommon to see me running around with the neighborhood kids. The smaller they are, the more fun it is because they just like to run up and down the block! I also like to carry around the smaller ones on my back and they like to see how many of them can climb on me at once. That’s a little nuts, but I can get about three little kids on at once! We race, chase other kids (including my own brother) and do things only 3- and 4-year-olds can come up with.

How does this work with your own kids? Well, depends on the age of the kids and your starting abilities. Here are my top five ways to exercise with your kids:

1. If they play a sport, help them practice.

My brother plays sports all year long. Right now it’s football, but basketball will soon follow and then baseball. And since he believes he’s the next Michael Vick, Carmelo Anthony and Nick Markakis rolled into one, he loves to practice off-season and any other time he can. I don’t throw well and I’m terrible at basketball, but I can help him work on other skills, like running, sprinting, blocking and things that test his strength, agility and balance. Which means they also test mine. If you were an athlete in high school or college, you know what I’m talking about! Get back out there and throw the ball around, hit shots on goal or shoot some hoops. You don’t have to be good; you just have to get out there.

2. Make use of the neighborhood playground.

Climbing over obstacles is fun no matter how old you are! You can reconnect your inner gymnast or pretend with your kids the obstacles and structures are something else part of a larger story. The point is next time you take the kids to the playground, don’t sit on the bench and watch when you can be part of their world. Isn’t that what kids really want?

3. Join a 5k fun run or walk.

Every weekend, somewhere in the country, there is a 5k/fun run going on. It can be for charity or for competition, but the races are there. The great thing about 5k races are that there’s rarely an age limit and you are usually welcome to walk if you choose. Some races even allow strollers on the course, so babies are no excuse for not participating! You can make it more interesting by training for the 3.1-mile distance, but if you’re just doing it for fun, just make sure you can cover the distance in the time allowed (check with the race regulations). Many of you will join in on the Baltimore Running Festival 5k on Oct. 13, but, since that’s sold out, check with my friends at Charm City Run http://charmcityrun.com or Falls Road Running http://baltimorerunning.com on upcoming events that still have open registration.

4. Challenge them on a video game.

This is one of my favorites because even my mother gets in on this one. If you’ve got an Xbox 360 with a Kinect, PlayStation Move, or Nintendo Wii, this works great. Find a very active game, like “The Black Eyed Peas Experience” or “UFC Trainer” and see who gets the highest score. You can also choose games with more than one player so you can compete at the same time. I personally think the Kinect is best for this because you are the controller, but work with what you’ve got. In our house, the competition didn’t really heat up until we got the Michael Jackson game on the Wii and then the Kinect (two very different experiences). I’m still the reigning champ on that game, but it’s tons of fun get some exercise in while you’re having fun.

5. It’s okay just to run around!

This is what happens most often when I’m playing with the neighborhood kids. For some reason, 3- and 4-year-olds like to run up and down the block for no apparent reason. Well, if they have a reason, they aren’t sharing it! That’s fine with me. We can always make up a reason later! And just like when you were a kid, it doesn’t really matter who wins as long as keep going.

Incorporating these simple suggestions not only helps you, but also promotes the idea that good health and activity are not just for kids – but for a lifetime.

What else can you do to workout with your kids? Leave a comment below and let’s share some ideas!

My exercise partners: Janae, Kenya, Kevin, Davion and Dante.

(Photo by Wendy Stewart)


Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.