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Family Fitness for Less

Guest post by Lisa

Setting aside space for personal fitness as a busy parent can be a difficult. Time crunched families also long for ways to build meaningful memories and spend time with one another. Why not incorporate both?

Cultivate an attitude of healthy living and teamwork in your family without buying the expensive gym membership. The options are endless, the cost free to minimal, but the memories are irreplaceable.

Adventure Hiking

Hiking paths, walking trails, even city streets can be transformed into an adventure. Try out new places, talk about what you discover, create a scavenger hunt to complete along the charted route. Keep a marked map or a running record, of all the trails your family has traversed.

Visit a Track

Slip on sneakers and scout out your local track. Find a time when no teams are practicing or have an athletic event. Children enjoy trying out all the lanes, running down the long jump, and rolling through the center field grass. While kids burn off energy, parents can fit in steady laps or complete sprint intervals.

Swim Swaps

Pack up the family for a trip to the local pool. If your pool has a splash pad area, settle the kids in. One parent can supervise while the other takes twenty minutes to swim laps, then switch places. End your time together with some massive splashing.

Exercise DVDs

Many local libraries have extensive exercise DVD collections. Be creative with your work-out equipment; children love to lift stuffed animals as weights or use a special blanket as an exercise mat. Kids interpretations are sure to create laughter.

Dig into Sports

Expose your children to many different sports. Compile a master list of all the sports your family wants to try and get moving. Changing things up is fun and helps your children discover the sports they enjoy most.

Ready to play? Run the bases at a local baseball diamond, give the tennis court a try, gang up on Dad to score a soccer goal. Even young family members can work through a Frisbee golf course.

Work with the Seasons

Take full advantage of the opportunities different times of the year present for fitness. Slip on rain boots and take a walk, jump through as many puddles as possible. Water balloon and squirt gun battles that include adults are sure to be a family favorite. Grab some hot cocoa and traverse a corn maze together. If snow comes to your area, bundle up and see how many times your family can climb the nearest sledding hill.

Stretch Imagination in Challenging Weather

When the weather prohibits outdoor activities bring the fun indoors. Take turns creating obstacle courses and completing them. Grab favorite stuffed animals and have them complete silly relay races. Strip all the beds of comforters and pillows, unpack the sleeping bags, and pile them into a heap. Bounce away, all the giggling will make up for the clean up afterward.

These are just a few of the frugal ways your family can stay fit… and create many memories in the process.

What are your best frugal family fun ideas?

Lisa is a freelance writer from Holland, Michigan. Her family seeks to live a life of giving, not excess. Lisa, her husband, and her two children (ages 7 and 4) have tried all these family fitness ideas. They have a lot of fun, laughter and general mishaps together. Adventure hiking is her children’s favorite activity.

photo credit

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  • Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook says:

    Lisa, I loved these ideas! We love to go out on adventure hikes, too… even during the winter. I can’t tell you how much mud we’ve scraped off of boots 🙂

    Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone bundled up and out the door, but it’s so worth it when we do!

  • Amy Lauren says:

    I love these ideas. I coach a kid’s cross country (ages 7-11) team, and I will say that when parents are active with their kids, it sticks. We have parents who help us coach, who help as course marshals/refreshments, and who walk the track when we are running there (on track/speedwork days). I definitely notice a different “spark” and drive with those kids whose families make fitness a priority than those who are just looking for something for their child to do.

    Geocaching is another great idea that a lot of families are getting into, granted it requires owning a GPS but most people have one of those now or can get one fairly cheap.

  • Jessica @ The Abundant Wife says:

    Another idea to save money is that you can ask for some of the supplies you’ll need for these activities, or passes to some of these places (pool, museum, zoo, gym, ymca, etc) as “consumable” gifts from family and friends. Then your house won’t be full of clutter, and your family will use the gift for making memories and getting fit together.

    By the way, I went to Calvin College and knew a lot of people from the Holland, Michigan area. Did you by any chance go to Calvin, or maybe Hope College? 🙂

    • Lisa Van Engen says:

      I graduated from Grand Valley in 2001. My husband went to Western Seminary. I am sure we might know some of the same people. I worked with many Calvin and Hope graduates at Camp Geneva in the summers. Thanks for your idea, I love that Mom’s are so creative!

      • Jessica @ The Abundant Wife says:

        I graduated in 2003, and my husband is a long-distance student at Western Seminary. We grew up in Maryland, but now we live in California. What a small world! 🙂

  • Gina says:

    Last summer and fall, we would get a few families together and play volleyball at the city park sand court nearly every week, sometimes twice a week. We had mixed teams – adults against teens, kids and adults against teens, guys against girls, etc. The children that were too little to play the game played together under the picnic shelter and the trees right beside the court. The moms took turns teaching the interested kids how to property bump the ball. We all had a blast and got some great exercise! We’re looking forward to warm weather so we can start up again. 🙂

  • Missy June says:

    Hiking is the absolute best! I’m a single mother of three little ones and we are SO blessed to live near Smoky Mountain National Park where we hike year-round, though less often in the winter. I’m frugal out of necessity more than philosophy, but along the way have learned how possible it is to live on less and give even in challenging times.

    Thank you for the ideas!

  • Sara says:

    I second geocaching!

  • susie says:

    I have checked out Andrea Paige’s DVD called Fit Mom, you excersize with the baby. My 4 year old loves it, she gets to get a piggy back ride. I love to be active outside, this weather is so cold now its hard to get excersize

  • Patrice says:

    My daughter LOVE to do exercise videos with me. Sometimes we do zumba ( which we refer to as “dance party”) and other times we’ll do a circuit video. She has even made her own “weights” out of tinker toys. We’re also HUGE fans of geocaching!

  • shawn'l says:

    I justed wanted to root for the indoor games. My big brother was master at inventing indoor games to play when he babysat my younger brother and I. We did “laps” around our hallway and sometimes added “hurdles” (pillows). We played indoor baseball with pillows as “bases”, a rolled sock as a “ball” and we had a mini souviner baseball bat. Same for football, use a sock and have couches as goals. Balloon volleyball – just a balloon blown up and 2 chairs with a broom over it – teens and adults have to be on their knees. Our favorite was to pretend we were superman and “fly” off the stairs onto as many blankets, comforters and pillows as we could find. We’d climb those stairs time after time. Such good times and wonderful memories.

  • Tammy @ Skinny Mom's Kitchen says:

    We simply just turn on the radio and shake it!! Some of my best workouts have been to the iCarly CD 🙂

    • Jessica @ The Abundant Wife says:

      Some of my favorite memories as a child were dancing to the radio, record player, or even the credits after a rented movie! Great idea!

  • Shauna says:

    Thank you for the helpful reminders. I just had my 4th baby 2 months ago and I have been thinking about where to fit in exercising again and it was seeming impossible.

  • Elise says:

    I give a hearty second to the exercise dvds! I don’t have kids old enough to exercise with me, but the dvds + me doing them keep my 7 month old entertained 😉
    My husband and siblings get together and practice martial arts together in my mother’s living room. watching my five year old nephew practicing his rolls – now that’s entertainment!

  • Shelisa says:

    My husband is training for a marathon in the spring. I want to break down the marathon into “bite sized pieces” (I’ve been reading and implementing my MSM book!) for the kids so they too can “complete a marathon” one lap at a time. Hmmm…I guess that means I should do it with them? 😉

    • Crystal says:

      Love it!

      • Jessica @ The Abundant Wife says:

        Crystal, if you’re interested in training for any more long-distance runs, you should check out the link I posted just below this one. I think you’d really like his website. He does all the work of breaking down your training schedule for you, very similarly to what you have been describing in your goal-setting posts. His website is the only way this un-athletic art major was able to complete The Great Wall Marathon in China (one of the world’s great adventure marathons) in 2008. 🙂

      • Jessica @ The Abundant Wife says:

        Here’s my story if you have some time on your hands:

    • Jessica @ The Abundant Wife says:

      I highly recommend Hal Higdon at You just choose what distance you want to run and how long you have to train, and his website gives you (FREE) your training schedule, and tips on healthy training. I ran a marathon with “Hal” and prior to that I wasn’t even able to run a mile without stopping!

  • Sarah says:

    It’s been mentioned already, but just wanted to say ditto on Geocaching!!! It can be done almost anywhere. 😀

  • Ruth says:

    Netflix also has exercise videos. If you have a subscription, you have access to them.

  • Lucky @ Making My Own Luck says:

    We love hiking too.

    I’ve been known to swim laps at the city pool while my 3 year old “rides” by holding on to my neck.

    Also, my 3 year old’s pre school teacher is into yoga and leads them through simple stretches on days when they can’t go outside and now he’s all into that too.

  • Jackie says:

    We live in a college town and the Intramural fields are across the street from the football and baseball stadium. Sometimes running playing in the shadow of a “big” complex like that can be a lot of fun too! Not to mention that the University athletic department offers a lot of fun free stuff for kids to do.

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