En español | One of the nicest things about grandchildren is their youthful exuberance. We all get an energy boost when we are around kids, and grandparents often say their grandchildren are their main motivation to stay active and fit.
See also: Make fitness a family tradition.
Staying active and fit is beneficial to kids, too. With childhood obesity rates at an all-time high, it's more essential than ever to keep children from being too sedentary.
Here are five activities that you and your grandchildren can do that will be beneficial to both of you:
No matter how old your grandkids are, you can hit the trails where you'll both get exercise while learning about the great outdoors. Keep it interesting for the kids by incorporating scavenger hunts (who can find a sassafras leaf, wildflower or, better yet, a certain animal's footprints. Whether you take an urban hike around the neighborhood, find a nature trail at a local park or set out on a hiking vacation, choose a path that is a bit of a challenge but not so strenuous for you or your grandchildren to diminish the fun. The American Hiking Society has family hiking resources. And don't forget to explore our amazing national and state parks.
On a trip to China many years ago, I was so taken with the groups of older adults and young children practicing tai chi together in the parks. Chinese elders traditionally care for grandchildren and teach them the popular ancient activity, which was originally a defensive martial art and is now mostly used to develop physical and mental harmony. Tai chi involves a series of slow graceful moves that supposedly move energy around your body. It is a powerful multigenerational activity because it is gentle and noncompetitive. It also can be adapted to varying physical abilities. Practice tai chi indoors or outdoors, in a class or at home with a DVD or guide book.
Are you a golf nut? Why not get the grandkids out on the links? According to the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, golf can be a lifelong sport that encourages family interaction and builds lifelong memories. Many vacation resorts offer golf lessons and activities for children. Golf courses are now developing "family courses" with two levels of additional tees that make it fun and easier for kids to participate. While a little family competition can be fun, keep in mind that you're a role model for your grandchildren. No throwing of golf clubs, please! Not ready for a golf course? Try miniature golf. Always a fun family activity, it maintains and develops eye-and-hand coordination and gets you all walking (and laughing), too.
From prenatal yoga to gentle yoga for the 50-plus set, there's a class for practically everyone. Yoga for children is gaining popularity; more than 100 public schools offer classes for their students. You'll also find many local yoga instructors and studios that offer gentle intergenerational classes — a great way to bond with grandkids and improve your own health. Yoga is easy to learn, portable (little or no equipment required) and builds strength, muscle tone, coordination and balance — benefits for all ages. Buy a yoga DVD for kids and keep it at home for those moments when you need to occupy little ones. Make it fun by doing simple yoga poses that are based on animals and nature. Try a few "woofs" with your downward facing dog pose, have an imaginary bird perch on your arm during a tree pose and do a few "ribbits" during your frog pose.
The new gaming systems geared for fitness and exercise are not just for kids — grandparents are also buying systems like Nintendo Wii. Families tend to keep their Wii console in the family/living room (59 percent) as opposed to in the kids room (19 percent), which confirms the "exergaming" trend is a popular way to motivate multigenerational family togetherness. Studies have shown that Wii games, such as bowling, baseball and tennis and other Wii Fit activities improve balance and coordination among older adults. Capitalize on your grandchildren's interest in entertainment media but get them moving. You might even be able to beat them at this type of video game!
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