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Exercising with Your Kids--The 21st Century Way


by Katriena Knights

It's hard to find time to spend with your kids under the best of circumstances. It's even harder to find time you can spend together working on your overall health and fitness.

It seems like most kids these days just want to spend their time inside, in front of the TV or playing video games. While it's certainly recommended that you encourage your kids to get out and experience some fresh air and grass and other outdoor things, why not meet them halfway once in a while? Combine your fitness and exercise jaunts with their favorite pastime--video games.

It's easier than you might think. Video games have grown out of the phase where all they involve is sitting in a chair and staring at a monitor, with the only real necessary movement that of your fingers on a controller. Now there's a wide variety of games where you have to get up, move around, dance, stomp, and yes, even exercise.

The arrival of the Nintendo Wii changed the landscape of video games drastically. With its "get up and move" approach to gaming, it provides a variety of exercise options right out of the box, with the included Wii Sports package. These are games you can easily play with your kids, that will get them up off the couch and swinging their arms and burning off some calories. Just be prepared to take a beating--kids seem to have a natural skill with video games, and even with their new approach, Wii games are no exception.

Samba de Amigo, also exclusive to the Wii platform, involves dancing with a set of maracas (or a controller substituting for the maraca add-ons). The "hustle" mode in Samba de Amigo requires intensely physical play--you'll start feeling the burn in your arms after one or two songs if you give it your all.

Other games that can get you and your kids up and moving, and which aren't exclusive to the Wii platform, include Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Band. These all have settings for more than one player. If your kids are younger, you might want to double-check the lyrical content of some of the songs, especially in Rock Band.

With Dance Dance Revolution and a few of the special mats required by the game, you can work up a good sweat dancing (stomping on the mat) to the required rhythms with your kids. Offering solo, cooperative, competitive and even fitness modes, DDR offers several options to meet your needs for the game.

It's possible to get a sweat going with Rock Band, but easiest if you're playing the drums. Even if your goal isn't exercise, this is a great game to play with the kids both for some quality bonding time and to learn a little about music and rhythm. Cutting loose and playing the drums like you really mean it, though, provides a great upper body workout. Try a rotating approach, taking turns at each instrument so everybody gets a chance to get in the groove.

The Wii Fit system offers great exercise opportunities, but isn't as conducive to group play. A few exercises are set up for two players, but most are single player. If your kids enjoy the Wii Fit, though, you can arrange a competition to see who can get the highest scores, or one person can use the balance board while the other does the exercises freestyle, or a combination of the two. With a little imagination, you can come up with a number of ways to engage your kids and turn even this single player game into a family experience.

This is only a short list of games you can use to get your kids up and moving. Next time you're out shopping, check out the video game aisle and see what else is available. The choices are wide enough you're sure to find something that will appeal to the whole family.

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