Vacation Exercise for Kids- How to Stay Active However You Travel
The greatest part of Summer is family vacation. While some could argue that sleep away camp or beach days or sleeping in late is the best part of Summer, nothing quite compares to hopping getting on a plane, train, boat or car with your entire family and heading off to explore, relax, or visit more family. Family vacations can vary a great deal, ranging from a couple days in the area to a month in a distant place. In addition to the fun and excitement that can and should be part of travel wherever you go and whatever you do, at times many trips can be exhausting, full of unhealthy foods, and lacking any sort of regular exercise.
Yes, walking around Disney is technically a form of exercise. But how can you make sure your kids are getting the active play they need in order to counter the onslaught of sugar and fried foods, and more importantly, feel happy and energized? Below are a few vacation exercise ideas for kids, wherever you go and however you get there.
In the Air
Airports and airplanes are the fastest way to get most places, but they’re also activity killers. Anyone who has ever been to the airport knows that just in the time it takes to check in, get through security, and lug your bags through the terminal your energy (and mood) are completely shot before you even begin to board. Kids especially get restless waiting in lines and at the gate. So, make a pre-flight checklist.
Kids like crossing things off of lists (don’t we all?) whether or not you’re traveling, but making it airport themed will add in that extra little bit of fun. Write down on a piece of paper a list of 5-10 exercises to complete before takeoff. Let your kids cross off each item as they compete it. An sample workout could be:
1. 50 jumping jacks
2. 40 squats
3. 30 second plank
4. 20 push-ups
5. 10 star jumps
It’s not the most intense or comprehensive workout possible, but getting physical activity before spending time on a plane will make them feel better later on and distract them from the less-than-pleasant experience that often accompanies waiting in airports.
On the Road
Road trips are my favorite. I don’t think anything beats travel by car. You get to see and experience everything rather than just pass over from above. But while there are a thousand upsides to a good old fashioned road trip, there are obvious challenges. Healthy eating is often impeded by gas station delicacies and fast food convenience, not to mention the fact that your sitting in a car for extended periods of time. So how do you combine the greatness of road travel with healthy habits and physical activity?
When it comes to driving, rest stops rule. Most major highways have designated areas where you can find all-important bathrooms and space to play. While it’s tempting to get from point A to B as fast as possible, taking the time to get out and move will be worth it later on. Kids, like adults, get grumpy after sitting in the car too long and rest stop activities can be the perfect cure. You can always make a list similar to the one at the airport, or, given the space, play a game that lets them run free. Try this one, similar to memory games.
1. Give the kids one target (e.g. Picnic table) and ask them how fast they can run, touch the table and come back.
2. Add a second target (e.g. Tree taller than a house) and have them now touch both items in order.
3. Continue to add on targets one by one, making them test their memory and speed.
4. See how many targets they can hit in under 60 seconds without making a mistake.
At the Hotel
Some hotels are built keep families active. Ranging from family resorts to luxury hotels, many more places are starting to provide activities and services geared directly towards active families. But if you’re in a hotel that doesn’t cater to kids who like to move, you know how tough it can be having them sit around in the room. I’ve written before about how yoga for kids is a great activity for a ton of different reasons. Now add that it can easily be done in your hotel room to it’s long list of benefits.
If you or your kids already have some sort of yoga practice, setting aside five or more minutes in your hotel room can be an awesome activity when you wake up or just before you go to bed. If you’re not as familiar, their are tons of great yoga videos for kids available online and on YouTube. Getting the entire family practicing yoga will help get rid of any aches and pains from a long day of travel.
Staying with Family
Visiting out of town family is the final destination of many summer vacations. Sometimes you check in to a nearby hotel and sometimes, for better or worse, you stay with the family you’re visiting. Sometimes things get crowded and sometimes not, but whatever the sleeping arrangements, family visits don’t always equal active play. The easiest solution, bring a ball. In my opinion, tennis balls are the single greatest toy/piece of fitness equipment ever invented. They’re cheap, you can stick it in your suitcase, and they can even be used for muscle recovery. Best of all, tennis balls encourage active play. If your relatives have a backyard, basement, nearby park or any open space, a tennis ball creates endless opportunities to move.
Games can be as simple as playing catch, to running patters (like football), to soccer ball tennis, to wall ball. You can also come up with little challenges like trying to throw the ball in the air and catch it while balancing on one foot a certain amount of times in a row. If the family you’re visiting also have kids, it makes it even easier. Give a group of kids a tennis ball and some space and they’ll usually come up with games of their- a way better option than sitting inside playing video games the entire trip.
The Great Outdoors
Nothing beats a trip outdoors. If you’re taking a vacation that involves visiting a National Park, camping, or any other outdoor experience, chances are you’re going to be active. Hiking, swimming, and bike riding are just a few of the completely organic ways to get physical activity when you’re outside.
If for some reason you still feel like your kids need more exercise, any of the previous ideas work outside at a campground, on a hike, or even in your backyard. But when you’re surrounded by nature and thousands of opportunities to be active, you probably won’t have to try too hard to motivate your kids.
Steve Ettinger is a kids and family fitness expert, yoga instructor and author of Wallie Exercises. He travels around the country speaking at schools and making fitness videos for kids. Learn more at www.SteveEttinger.com