Family fitness on a budget

Adult and child practising yoga

If you’ve got a busy family life, keeping fit might feel like an extra chore you need to find time for. But having children is even more of a reason to keep active. Children over the age of 5 should be getting at least an hour of exercise a day, and under 5s need even more than this (read more about this in our blog on staying active with your kids).

The best way to encourage your children to be active is to build activity into your normal family life. You don’t have to spend money on costly clubs and activities; sometimes simple is best – and there’s plenty you can do without breaking the bank.

We asked several parents what they did as a family to keep active. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out some of the ideas below.

Jen – Mum to Noah (6) and Kitty (4)

“It can be difficult trying to fit your normal exercise routine in with spending time with the kids. I like to run, but I found it hard to find a time when I wasn’t busy with kids or work. My kids have recently really got into their bikes and I’ve realised it’s the perfect opportunity for me to go for a run alongside them! Although there’s the initial outlay for the bikes, it’s nice to know there’s no more expense involved now that we have them, and we’re certainly getting our money’s worth!”

Top tip: Make sure your children’s bikes are roadworthy and if you’re cycling out on the road, teach them road safety before you go. Be sure that children cycle ahead of you so you always have view of them. Read more about cycling safety for children.

Neil – Dad to Caitlin (5) and Eloise (2)

“My kids have just discovered scooting and now scoot everywhere, whether it’s to the shops, park or on the school run. Where we may have previously driven or had to persuade them to walk, they now can’t wait to get out on their scooters! There are some really expensive models around, but we bought ours second-hand from a local selling site.”

Top tip: If your children are keen to try cycling or scooting, you don’t need the most expensive models. Look in local second-hand shops or online selling groups to grab a bargain. Just make sure you check they’re safe and roadworthy before you buy.

Little girl on scooter 
Caitlin on her scooter

Lucy – Mum to Harry (7) and Maggie (3)

“I regularly take part in parkruns and have recently got my seven-year old son involved too! Harry has just completed his first parkrun – we ran and walked 5km together. It’s great being able to spend time doing something with my son that we both enjoy – and knowing that it’s doing both of us some good too!”

Top tip: Park runs are free and take place every Saturday in hundreds of locations across the UK and worldwide. They’re suitable for all abilities – and many venues also hold junior park runs for children aged between four and 14, making them a great family-friendly activity. Check out the parkrun website to find your local one.

Little boy with his Park Run certificate
Harry after his parkrun

Alice – Mum to Molly (20 months)

“I spend most of my time outside with my daughter; going to the park, beach or woodlands to explore. It hardly costs me any money. We also have yearly memberships to local farms, country parks and gardens. It works out a lot cheaper than paying each time, and encourages us to get out and about more.”

Top tip: Check out the country parks, farms and other venues available in your area. They often have play areas or walking trails for children. Signing up for annual memberships to the places you most enjoy can really cut costs – and encourage you to keep returning. 

Mother and daughter at the beach
Molly and Alice at the beach

Cheryl – Mum to Alice (5) and Eva (3)

“We have regular meet-ups with our extended family. The kids love organising games in the garden, whether it’s running races, obstacle courses with balls, skipping ropes and hoops, or a good old-fashioned game of hide and seek. It always wears them (and us adults) out by the end of the day!”

Top tip: You only need a few low-cost items such as skipping ropes, balls and hoops to create your own garden games. If you don’t have much outside space at home, head to your local park for a kick-about.

Annabelle – Mum to Lottie (3) and Molly (3 months)

“We do a lot of walking in our family. We have a dog that needs at least a couple of long walks a day – my oldest has been coming out on our daily dog walks since she was a baby! It’s definitely encouraged her to walk from a young age, and she now just accepts this as a normal part of our daily routine.”

Top tip: Encourage your children to walk whenever you can – whether it’s walking the dog, walking to school or to the shops. It’s the ultimate low-cost activity, where all you need is a pair of well-fitting shoes!

One final tip from me – let your children’s imagination go wild. Andy Murray famously played ping pong on the kitchen table, using biscuit tin lids as paddles and a row of food cans as the net. Exercise equipment needn’t be expensive!

Just remember, the best way to encourage your children to be active is to find something they enjoy, and that you can all do together. Whether it’s cycling, walking, running, swimming or playing outdoor games, there’s an activity to suit everyone – and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Here at Bupa we understand how important your family is. So with our family health insurance you can rest assured knowing that eligible treatment and support is available for your loved ones when you need it.

Physiotherapist at Bupa UK

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