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5 ways to sneak in family fitness

Fitness expert, Denise Austin, offers tips on how

Fitness expert, Denise Austin, offers tips on how to sneak in fitness with your family. Credit: Fotolia

Sure it's hot out there. But that doesn't mean your fitness routine should take the back seat. Summer is a great time to get moving with your family.

Finding it hard to squeeze fitness in, especially with camp, play dates, barbecues and more? Fitness expert and book author Denise Austin suggested five simple ways you can sneak in exercise with your family.

1. Introduce activity into every family gathering. With all the backyard barbecues, parties, and events this season, there are plenty of opportunities to get a large group together for some good old-fashioned outdoor fun, said Austin. "Pick something that all ages can get involved in; when the kids see the adults having a blast, they'll want to join in on the action," she said. "My own family loves to play volleyball every chance we get  -- on the grass, on the sand if we’re at the beach or even in the pool. You don't need much more than a ball to start a family tournament that brings on plenty of heart-pumping fun and bonding time." Find a sport that works for your extended brood, or switch it up every time: softball, Frisbee, two-hand touch football, relay races -- the possibilities are endless, she suggested. "This tip works for your vacations as well: Make an effort to plan trips centered around movement-based activities like hiking, swimming, or water skiing."

2. Start a pedometer challenge. Encourage some healthy competition by purchasing inexpensive pedometers for yourself, your kids and your spouse to wear to help you all remember to walk more throughout the day. Pedometers, such as Forever Fit, are an easy way to count your steps and keep track of how much movement you're getting -- even the younger ones will be able to participate, said Austin. "Try setting a family goal (maybe it's 15,000 steps a day or 25 miles by the end of summer) or create teams and try to beat each other's step counts each week," she said. "The winning team gets to choose the location of the next family outing or pick the film at your next trip to the movies." Kids will love tracking their progress and challenging one another.

3. Give the gift of movement. For birthdays, graduations, and other special occasions, give your children gifts that encourage exercise, like a pair of Rollerblades, a bike or a hula-hoop, suggested Austin. "If you have older kids who are into gaming, you could even splurge on one of the systems on the market that requires them to stand up and move around in order to play, such as the Wii Fit," she said. "Kids will be excited about using their fun new toy -- and you'll be thrilled about all that extra exercise their bodies are getting."

4. Start a summer project. "Not only is tackling a task as a family a great team-building experience, it's a good way to squeeze more calorie-burning exercise into all of your days," she said. "Decide on a project together to ensure it’s something you are all interested in completing, like building a doghouse or treehouse in the backyard, planting a vegetable garden, or painting an elderly neighbor's fence -- anything that gets everybody outside and away from the TV. Break down the job into smaller, age-appropriate tasks and then watch your hard work slowly come together into a finished product you can all take pride in."

5. Be the ring leader. Take the initiative to get your children and their friends involved in the many extracurricular activities of the season. "Be the one to spread the word to other moms and dads about soccer tryouts, a new gymnastics class in town or a day camp filled with outdoor games and sports," said Austin. "Offer to organize carpooling to make it easier on other parents to participate. Children will jump on any activity that involves their friends -- and you may even get to enjoy a bit of quiet time on your own while they're out and about."

For more fitness tips, visit and follow her on Facebook.

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