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Family Fitness Activities
Below are some ideas you can use with your children (or teachers can provide to parents) to help children understand pulse rates. After the title of each game, you will find ages for which these activities are best suited. As you can expect, there are exceptions. Also, it is best that parents do these activities with their children.

All members of the family can benefit from these activities/games. They will help younger children internalize more sophisticated and possibly regimented activities. They will also stretch parents and older children to have more play in their fitness.

Activities to Understand Pulse Rate
Children's Pulse Rates (Ages 10-16)
Children's pulse rates are much faster than those of adults, since they are more excitable and have a higher metabolic rate because they are growing. Have your child take his own pulse rate, then have him take yours. Compare the two. Yours probably will be much slower. Do an activity together - anything from raking the lawn, chasing each other around the house, going for a bike ride, or climbing stairs. Have him take his and your pulses. Notice that both have increased, but the child's is still at a faster rate. Talk over the ways in which your bodies are similar and different.

Pulse Rates and Eating (Ages 10-16)
Take your child's and your pulse just before eating dinner. After finishing dinner and the dishes, sit down and take your pulses again. Lie down, wait a few minutes and check again. Point out to each other the changes in pulse rates and talk about why you think these changes happened.

Number of Heartbeats (Ages 9-14)
To determine how many times your heart beats each day, take your pulse for one minute. Multiply that by 60 minutes, then by 24 hours (i.e., 50 beats per minute times 60 equals 3,000; 3,000 times 24 equals 72,000 beats per day). Compare this to your child's. Whose heart is working harder? If you exercised 30 minutes every day, you probably could lower your pulse by 10 beats per minute for 23 hours a day. How many beats would you save? A fit heart uses fewer beats to do the same work as an unfit heart.

Caffeine and Pulse Rates (Ages 9-16)
If there is a coffee drinker in the house, have him refrain from drinking anything for approximately three hours. Take his pulse, then have him drink a cup of coffee. Record his pulse one minute, five minutes, ten minutes and twenty minutes after having the coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant. It affects the nervous system, causing the person's heart to beat quicker. Determine the extra heart beats of a coffee drinker in a day, week, month or year.

Changes in Physical Activity (Ages 9-16)
Tell your child about the things you liked to do physically when you were a child. You might even pass on stories your parents or grandparents told about their childhood.  Talk about how things were before we had automobiles, electric lights and supermarkets. Discuss with your child what it must have been like to split your own wood, grow your own garden and walk to town. Explain that because our modern conveniences eliminate these activities, it is important for us to get physical exercise in other ways to keep our hearts healthy.

Favorite Activities (Ages 9-16)
You probably know what your child’s favorite activities are: basketball, tiddlywinks, mowing the lawn, softball, washing dishes or whatever. (Interestingly enough, of these activities, mowing the lawn is by far the best aerobic activity, provided that you use a push mower that is not self-propelled.) For each activity your child enjoys, figure out how much aerobic exercise is provided. Help your child make a list with the best aerobic activities at the top and increasingly less aerobic activities below. Playing tiddlywinks definitely would be at the bottom of the list. Make a list for yourself as you help your child prepare his or her list.

Finding Pulse Rates (Ages 5-14)
How many places can you find your pulse? Start by finding your pulse in your wrist. Your child finds his or her pulse at the wrist and then in another place. You must find your pulse in the same place, then find a new spot. If you cannot find a pulse where your child found one, he gets a point. Keep going until you cannot find any more pulse points.

My 10 Most Favorite Physical Activities (Ages 8-16)
Have your children list their ten favorite physical activities on a sheet of paper. Then have them do the following:
  1. Put F next to their most favorite activity.
  2. Put L next to their least favorite activity.
  3. Indicate with a B the activity they think is best for them.
  4. Put 5’s next to those activities they think they will be able to do when they’re 50 years old.
  5. Put a 2 next to those activities that take two or more people to participate.
Ask your children to write answers to the following questions on the back of their paper after they study the above coding.
  1. What did the “Ten Most Favorite Activities” exercise tell you about your activity selection?
  2. Did you select a cardiovascular exercise?
  3. What, if anything, do you plan to do as a result of this exercise?

Exercise Monopoly (Ages 8-14)
If you have the popular board game Monopoly, you can adapt it to reinforce exercise concepts. Change all the properties to exercise facilities or places synonymous with fitness. Half the fun will be thinking up new names for the properties (i.e., Fred’s Fantastic Fitness Facility, Boston Marathon Route).

You may wish to change the cards as well, to require participants to be active (i.e., run around the room three times, do five push-ups). Every time a person passes “Go” to collect $200, they must do 10 sit-ups.

The object of the game is to gain control of all the fitness facilities.

Clue (8-14)
Again, use the board game, but adapt as follows:

Weapons
Change the weapons to fitness equipment (i.e., running shoe, hockey stick, baseball bat, football) or risk factors (i.e., not enough exercise, too fat, smoking).
Personalities
Use athletes – hockey player, baseball player, football player and so forth.
Rooms
Change the rooms to sports or exercise facilities, such as a gymnasium, hockey arena, baseball park and roller skating rink.

Pie of Life (Ages 12-16)
Ask your children to list all the things they do during a typical weekday. Draw a pie, and section off pieces for the various activities of the day (i.e., sleeping 1/3, eating 1/8, television 1/8, exercise 1/24, and so on). Have them list the things they would like to do but never seem to have time to accomplish. Draw a new pie, divided for how they would like to spend their time.

Exercise Ideas
Family Superheart (Ages 7-16)
Ground Rules:
  1. Contest starts____ (date) and ends____ (date) .
  2. Be positive and avoid unhealthy competition. Have each person strive for personal goals weekly. Participation is the key; reward anyone who exercises three times a week.
  3. Only Training Heart Rate Exercises qualify. That is:
a. Bicycling f. Rowing
b. Brisk walking g. Running
c. Cross-country skiing h. Running in place
d. Aerobics i. Swimming
e. Rope jumping
Sports such as basketball, aerobics, fencing, field hockey, football, gymnastics (floor exercises only), ice or roller skating, ice hockey, martial arts (Judo and Karate), racquet games (tennis, etc.), soccer, wrestling and volleyball also qualify, but you receive only half credit for participation. So, double the time to get full credit - 40 minutes of basketball will give you 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, etc. This method allows for rest periods, coaching and slow play.
4.
When a family member logs 20 minutes of Training Heart Rate Exercise (or 40 minutes of the other listed exercises) for a particular day, the person gets a checkmark on a chart. Sample chart:
Name
M
T
W
Th
F
Sa
Su
Total
Deb
X
X
X
X
4
John
X
X
X
X
4
Tom
X
X
X
X
X
5
Lisa
X
X
X
X
4
Becky
X
X
X
X
4
Dad
X
X
2
Mom
X
X
X
3
Beginning Date____________ Ending Date___________________
Number in familty getting 20 minutes of Training Heart Rate Exercise (or 40 of other) three times a week______
Percent _______
 
Check out the Families in Training kit that includes colorful charts and awards. 
Something New (Ages 9-16)
Have family members write down an activity they would like to do but never have had the chance to do (i.e., hiking, bowling, and so on). Once every month or every two weeks, place these activities in a hat and draw one. Plan to do this activity with the whole family.

How Low Can You Go? (Ages 5-16)
Have family members record the number of hours of television they watch in one week. The following week, ask them to cut one hour of television. Each week, cut another hour. See who can go the lowest. You might also provide a reward. For example, for every three hours of television time cut out, allow your child to purchase a book or some active equipment.

No-Car Day (Ages 9-16)
Pick a day and try to make it through the whole day without using a car. Bicycles are okay, so are buses. How much more activity do you engage in when you don't use the car? Discuss the effect of labor-saving devices on activity patterns in your lives.

Family Fitness (Ages 3-14)
Select one hour a week that you will devote to family fitness. Have each member select three activities; then schedule a different activity for each week. You may want to state that the activities cannot require a great deal of skill, and all family members must be able to do them.

Name in a Hat (Ages 9-14)
Have each family member place his or her name in a hat. Everyone then selects a name from the hat. Design three exercises for the person whose name you drew to do daily for a week. Each day the person does one more repetition (i.e., one push-up on day one, seven push-ups by day seven). The person who drew the name makes sure the other person does his or her exercises every day.

No-Sit Day (Ages 5-16)
Select one day (i.e., Saturday) as a no-sitting day. The object of this contest is to go through the whole day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., without sitting. This activity is fun, but it is tiring (no sitting means no lying down, kneeling, etc. - only standing, walking or running). See how many family members make it through the day. Discuss the adventure at the evening meal, while sitting.

Nine to Five (Ages 5-16)
Select one day to go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. without using any labor-saving devices – nothing electric or motorized. (This means you must cook without electricity or not cook.) Have the family set the rules for the day. Discuss at the evening meal how times have changed and how much less active we are today.

Activity Day (Ages 3-16)
Plan an activity day for the whole family. Friends, neighbors and relatives can be invited. Have each family member plan one activity. The younger children can work with an older sibling or parent; others should not reveal their plans until the day comes. Some examples are: a scavenger hunt, a neighborhood walk, fun relays, a handicap run, a treasure hunt.

Mileage Plot (Ages 4-16)
The further you go, the fitter you get. Each week, have the children plot their mileage on a map, following roads and highways. (It is best if the entire family does this.) Mileage equivalents for activities are as follows:
Aerobics
8-12 minutes
= 1 mile
Bicycling
3 miles
= 1 mile
Cross-country skiing
¾ mile
= 1 mile
Jogging
1 mile
= 1 mile
Rebounding
8-12 minutes
= 1 mile
Rope jumping
8-12 minutes
= 1 mile
Rowing
8-12 minutes
= 1 mile
Running in place
8-12 minutes
= 1 mile
Swimming
450 yards
= 1 mile
Walking
1 mile
= 1 mile
For personal mileage, use a state or county map. For family mileage, use a state or national map. You may want to aim for a destination, such as a relative's home. Place the map in an obvious place – a refrigerator door, family bulletin board or family-room wall.
 
For a list of over 100 mileage equivalencies check out the Mega Mileage Activity Almanac.