Fitting in Family Fitness at the Holidays
“Kids love the ‘sit-stand-high-five’ routine,” Dr. Peeke said. Position two chairs to face each other. Sit. Stand. High five. Repeat. “For them, that’s not exercise. It’s playing. But that kind of motion” — rising rapidly and sinking back into a chair, repeatedly — “is a workout.”
Or inchworm with the youngsters or any willing adults, inebriated or otherwise, she said. This classic calisthenic involves standing with your feet about hip-width apart, hinging forward at the hips, placing your hands on the ground, palms flat, and walking your hands forward until your chest is parallel to the ground. Then walk your hands back toward your feet, stand, and dare any pint-size relatives to try — just try! — to inchworm faster than you.
Consider also supplying the household with jump ropes, said Dr. Michael Joyner, an anesthesiologist and exercise physiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a committed athlete. Jump ropes, by themselves, provide all the equipment needed for a full workout and silly fun, he said.
If you’re visiting relatives, you can pack a few to take along. Then introduce the children to double Dutch and other trick jumping and remind their elders of how jolly it once was to bounce, even for a moment or two.
These kinds of brief activity spurts provide nutritious “exercise snacks,” said Dr. Kathryn Schmitz, a professor of public health at Penn State University and the immediate past president of the American College of Sports Medicine. “If you can’t manage to work out for 30 minutes straight during the holidays or any other time,” she said, “be active for five minutes or three minutes multiple times during the day.”
For her part, she completes several upper- and lower-body “exercise snacks” every day while traveling. “I try to do a few push-ups and maybe some dead lifts,” she said. “You can use a gallon of milk” as a weight during the dead lifts, Dr. Schmitz suggested. Dead lifts, which strengthen the backside muscles, involve setting the milk (or dumbbell or other weight) on the floor in front of you. Then stand upright, bend over from your waist, knees slightly bent, spine straight, head up, buttocks out, eyes focused ahead (not down) and arms straight. Grasp the gallon and, keeping it close to your body, slowly straighten, then lower it, and repeat.
And invite full-family participation. “Almost everyone can do something, even if it is just a push-up against the wall, if someone shows them how and keeps saying, ‘Wow, good job, Grandma,’” she said.