For parents everywhere, raising healthy children is a primary concern. How do you create an environment in which they can truly thrive and grow up to be healthy and fit? It starts by fostering an atmosphere where exercise isn't seen as something to dread or to avoid, but as something to embrace and enjoy as a fun part of living. Relying on physical education classes in school or local sports to fill in the gaps isn't always the best option, though. In fact, one of the best ways to encourage your children to keep exercising is to get involved with it yourself! If you lead by example, you may find it's much easier to motivate kids to stay active.

That’s the reasoning at work behind one of the growing fitness trends becoming apparent in 2018 — the rise of family fitness classes. Group exercise itself is nothing new, of course, but this unique spin on the concept is more about bringing whole families together to explore opportunities to exercise. Not only is it a great way to build a fitness foundation that you can continue to expand upon at home, but it's an excellent way to improve your own health, too. We all need help with motivation from time to time, so why not get it from your kids?

As more gyms and fitness centres begin to offer these options, you may wonder about their specific benefits. What usually goes on in these classes? What could you expect to gain from them? Can you do the same things without adding an instructor into the mix? Let's look at some of the answers.

What are the main benefits to exercising together?

There are many reasons to start blocking out time in your schedules to exercise together, even if you only begin with trying it once a week. You don't need to sign up for a structured class, either, though we'll touch on what you might be able to expect if you choose to enrol in one. All that matters is setting aside the opportunity to get together and spend some time having fun and staying active.

One of the biggest benefits you'll experience is the impact of leading by example. Especially if you start a weekly routine with younger children, you could be surprised at just how much they look forward to your exercise time together each week. By fostering an atmosphere focused on enjoyment, even when the workouts get tougher, exercise begins to feel more like play than a chore. While it might not reach that point for you as a parent, seeing your children excited by exercise should inspire you to keep going, too.

Creating exercise games or fitness activities at home is a low-cost way to improve everyone's health, another perk to taking part in this trend. As you work together to develop better habits, from exercise to healthier eating, you'll also gain the ability to communicate better with one another. Playing active games together, for example, can help a child learn how to communicate in fast-paced situations. It can also foster a sense of trust, as you are not forcing a child to exercise alone or as a punishment. Instead, it can strengthen family bonds, whether you play at home or travel to a gym to engage in age-appropriate classes.

What to expect from a typical group fitness class

If you opt for one of the growing number of organised classes found in gyms, keep in mind that there is often a fee attached. Be sure to budget accordingly and look for discounts and special offers where possible to stretch your money further. In many cases, instructors built these classes from the ground up to offer a way for both children and adults to exercise together without outpacing one another. Some other classes opt to break into groups sorted by age, though they may continue to occupy the same room. In either case, the workout itself is designed to be more fun and exciting than your typical class, which is often more punishing.

Some classes take an approach similar to dance fitness courses that have been popular in recent years, such as Zumba. Others focus on step aerobics or other group activities that are easy to coordinate and explain to children. In some special cases, an entirely unique program is in place, involving all kinds of interactive equipment, music, and special lighting. While these may come with a slightly larger price tag for entry, they're also proving that there's plenty of room to innovate in the exercise arena.

By turning the workout into a game with clearly defined rules and an obvious goal, kids are instantly motivated to start playing. Little do they know just how much it's benefiting their bodies and boosting their endurance! These courses often don't even require an instructor except for initial guidance and for oversight during the activities — so you can focus on your kids instead of instructions. 

Family fitness opportunities outside the gym

There are other aspects to this trend that don't involve choosing simple exercise games you can create at home or driving to participate in a big group class. In fact, the trend of family fitness has inspired the growth of other group-oriented activities with modifications to make them friendlier to children. If you want your family to take advantage of their availability, what should you look to put on your calendar?

Fun runs and other similar races are a big one, especially if there is a "colour run" set to occur near where you live. Typically, these accompany larger races, such as marathons or half-marathons. Colour runs are often separate events altogether, though. In these, the object is for the runners to make it through to the end of the course — and along the way, friends and spectators throw coloured corn starch powder through the air at the participants. The result is very messy, very colourful, and tonnes of fun. Everyone might even forget how much farther you must run before the finish line with all the colours flying through the air.

Obstacle courses and other races that centre around a physical challenge are fast-growing destinations for families, too. Inspired by some of the more rigorous and difficult courses, like the Tough Mudder brand of races, family-friendly obstacle courses aren't so intimidating. They're great fun for children; after all, what kid doesn't want to prove how fast they are by beating a series of challenges? Add in competition against Mum or Dad, and you have a recipe for a fun afternoon. The desire to participate in one of these events a second time can be an inspiration for developing fitness habits even more than classes; the sense of achievement that comes from crossing a finish line is hard to beat.

Family fitness is also about looking for smaller opportunities in everyday life to do "active" things together. It doesn't always have to be an hour-long workout that leaves everyone drenched in sweat! A quick run around the yard, a game of catch in the local park, or a trip to the local swimming pool together are all excellent ideas. Even occasions like birthday parties present an opportune time for activities: gather everyone together and lead them in a short game before letting them return to the celebrations. If you put in the effort to foster a desire for movement and encourage the feelings of satisfaction that stem from reaching goals, your children may turn out to want to exercise more often than you.

Explore your local area and find a program for your family 

With unique and fun opportunities to exercise and more innovation in this space taking place all the time, working out as a family can be one of the best activities you undertake together. When everyone starts to see other members of the family improving, not just regarding athletic ability but also in overall health and wellness, the desire to keep pushing forward can grow even stronger. As part of a balanced approach to fitness, these classes and opportunities can provide the perfect springboard for instilling a lifelong desire to remain fit and healthy in your children. Of the gifts you can give them, this is among the best.

This article was written for Sports Fitness. Shop with up for all your family's exercise clothing and fitness accessories. We have products for kids, ladies and men so take a look today.