Article by Erica Berman, PhD, who has the scoop on family fitness in Toronto.
After what seemed like a particularly long and brutal winter, spring is finally here and many of us in Toronto feel like we’re coming out of a long period of hibernation. This often means that we’ve spent too much time on the couch and too little time being active. Even when the weather cooperates, it’s difficult for most people to carve out time for exercise, and this is particularly true for parents. Keeping active, however, doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can and should, ideally involve the kids. The best way to get them on the path to a healthy lifestyle is to model one, after all.
Family Fitness for all Ages
If you have an infant and/or toddler, there are many gyms and fitness facilities in Toronto that offer childcare. Community centres like the Miles Nadal JCC, Wallace Emerson, and The West End YMCA are a few of my favorite recreation facilities that will mind your little ones while you get fit.
If you have preschoolers to pre-teens, why not get your kids moving with you at the same time? Fit Fix and Fit Fix Junior offer a wide variety of fitness classes and training for children and adults. Krudar Muai Thai in Kensington Market holds a Muai Thai class for children every Saturday while simultaneously running both spinning and boot camp classes for grown-ups.
If you have teens, find an activity you all enjoy make it quality time. If conventional fitness activities don’t appeal, how about badminton, martial arts, paddle boarding or roller derby?
Take a Walk!
When it comes to family fitness a gym, fancy equipment and scheduled classes are not essential: the city is full of outdoor spaces to get fit too! Simply taking a walk with the added resistance of a stroller, wagon or baby carrier is great exercise for moms and dads. If you regularly take your kids to the park and then watch while they play, you are missing out on a prime opportunity to get active. Why not jog around the playground, do burpees and jumping jacks, or bring a skipping rope or hula hoop (one of the latest fitness crazes!)? The whole family can have fun while getting fit together.
Parks are also great, safe places for walking, running or cycling as a family and there are so many wonderful options in Toronto: Withrow and Riverdale parks in the East End, Cedarvale, Christie Pits, and Trinity Bellwoods in the West, and, of course, High Park.
Walking in Circles … or Not
Tracks, in particular, are perfect spots for everyone to exercise: kids can cycle or scooter without the danger of cars nearby, and parents can walk or jog while keeping a close eye on their little ones. In our area, Earlscourt park, located just south of the Joseph Picinnini Community Centre, has a beautiful outdoor track, but maybe your kids’ school has one you can use that’s right at your doorstep.
If going around and around in circles is not your idea of fun, than enjoy exploring nature instead: Toronto has fabulous waterfront and ravine trails, the Beach boardwalk, and the unique Evergreen Brickworks lands to walk or hike.
Leave Your Car in the Garage
One of the best ways to build exercise into your life is to leave your car in the garage as much as possible. Walk or ride bicycles to school, work, daycare or the grocery store instead. Even if your kids are small, there are now a myriad of options for allowing them to safely ride on your bicycle. Not only is cycling great exercise, it’s an inexpensive and environmentally friendly mode of transportation too!
If it’s your kids who need a wee bit of motivation to get moving, offer them an incentive to get on their bikes or walk to the park: a picnic lunch on the grass, a visit to see the animals at the High Park Zoo, or a dip in one of the many splash pads around the city. Another strategy that works with my kids is to include their friends. Offer to pick up a friend or two on the way to the park and turn it into a playdate. Remember, fitness should be a family affair!
What are your favourite ways to build family fitness into your life and routine?
Erica Berman is a mother of two, psychotherapist, fitness instructor and personal trainer. She cycles to work whenever possible.