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Family Exercise: “Working Out” Better Family Bonding

Family Exercise: “Working Out” Better Family Bonding
By Leah Kackley

Hippocrates, the so-called Father of Modern Medicine, was known to prescribe exercise as part of his medical treatment for a number of ailments. But the theory that reasonable (non-excessive) exercise was part of being healthy and recommended as a treatment for disease was advocated by physicians in ancient Chinese, Indian, and other cultures as well. Exercise-as-medicine is just as important for children as it is for the parents.

So, what if the family could take this good medicine together? Family Exercise is a trend that has been rising – thanks to Gen-Y and Millennial families seeing the need to reverse the effects of digital life and the removal of recess from schools. But is it really useful? For many families, the answer to that lies in the extra benefits outside of the obvious ones. Janet Reihle is the Director of Development for the Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi. She says: “Families are so busy. During the weekdays, it’s not uncommon for families to only spend an average of 36 minutes together during the day. Scheduling family exercise is not only good for health reasons, but it’s wonderful for building better family connections.” As a solution, the Flowood Y has a Family Fit program available to members on Saturday mornings. Kids can exercise alongside of their folks (or maybe even their grand-folks!) in an indoor obstacle course that’s way more fun than work. That time together is full of giggles and encouragement, fun music, and high fives – all good things for families to share together. Trainer RaShard Johnson keeps it so fun that the 30 minutes fly by, and the kids are ready for more adventures with their grownups.

Local GrandMom, Helen Donska of Jackson, says: “We go to Family Fit with our grandkids sometimes. It is a lot of fun to play with the kids, while also getting healthy. It’s a win-win! The exercises aren’t too hard. Grownups get to do everything with the children. And if it requires a little too much from our joints, we let the kids do it by themselves. It’s wonderful to see all these young families spending quality time with their kids and teaching them about health and fitness. We wish more grandparents would join the fun, too!”

Reihle also encourages families with special needs kids to embrace the idea of working out together. She says: “We’ve even seen kids on the autism spectrum experience great results through family exercise.” Improved social connections is the icing on the cake of improved health.

Family exercise doesn’t have to conform to the time and location constraints of a gym. Jill Franklin is a married mom of 3 who lives in the Reservoir Brandon area. She’s also a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and a Group Fitness Instructor. She says there are so many ways to incorporate fitness in the family. The key is to have fun in such a way that gets all the bodies moving! Some of her ideas for family exercise include “treasure hunting” during nature walks, family games of tennis, soccer, basketball, riding bikes, swimming, or going roller blading. Do some sprint intervals while taking a family walk. Have everyone write down a few ideas for family fun and then pick from the pile of inspiration. Get creative with your own backyard obstacle course using playground equipment, jump ropes, hula hoops, and similar types of inexpensive items that families might already have. And family dance parties are favorites at the Franklin house. “Turn up some music and dance! My kids love to do this. Great for a rainy day inside activity.

We have even done this while cleaning the house. The kids love to clean windows with the music turned up loud.”

Creating better family bonding time often has to be intentional. Improving the health of the family in the process is just a big ole bonus. As this new school year starts to settle into a comfortable routine, go ahead and schedule in an hour here and there to make memories and build better bodies. No stress, no judgment – just reclaim some time for the family and make everyone get just a little better today. And have some fun.


Leah O’Gwynn Kackley lives, works, and homeschools in the Rez/Fannin area with her husband, Jason, and their three kids. Family exercise isn’t always a Normal Rockwell painting with her crew, but she still loves when they take the time for it!

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