It always amazes me how much energy children have: they run, jump and skip for hours. We too were once like that, but over the years our "oomph" has subsided and staying active has become a chore. For parents, it’s often hard to find time away from a busy schedule to fit in any fitness regime. The solution may be to include your children in your exercise time and have fun together.
The little sponge that is a child's brain soaks up our patterns and behaviours. When your child sees you exercising regularly he or she is learning that this is a way of life rather than some unpleasant undertaking. So set an example by incorporating physical activity into your daily lives: walk instead of drive to the boulangerie or climb the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator (most buildings here are only 6 or 7 storeys). Let your kids see and hear how much you like an active lifestyle and he or she will grow up with the notion that exercise is fun and something you willingly do on a regular basis.
Advantages of exercising as a family
No need for childcare
Parent-child bonding time
Establishes a routine
You all benefit from being active
You become a positive role model for your child
As an added motivation, children who are active day-to-day learn to respect their body (and thus gain confidence) and will be more aware of the importance of eating healthy to maintain energy and provide that extra get-up-and-go. They are also more likely to remain active adults, so the stage for a healthy lifestyle for years to come is set.
The ex-factor: In today’s world of too much tech and short attention spans, children sadly have more interest in sedentary entertainment from TV and tablets to Facebook and video games. For expat kids, an attachment to an iPad or iPhone may be even stronger if language isolates them from integrating at school and making friends. So being active with your child not only strengthens muscles, but also your relationship, which is essential for expat families living away from relations. Whether it’s riding your bikes, swimming in the sea or a parent-child fitness class, any time spent doing a physical activity together has large benefits for you both: a child will feel more at ease taking about school and friends, you can mutually share some of the challenges of living in a foreign country, and a busy child is less likely to be bored and seek attention in other ways. Walk and talk; it can be that simple. There are plenty of activities you can do.
Pushy parents. This class (pictured at top) is performed outdoors with your child in the stroller. Power walking interspersed with strength exercises is a great way to get your daily dose.
Play together. Have some fun making an obstacle course or playing tag, guaranteed to exhaust everyone.
Afternoon at the park. There are wonderful public parks which often have a children’s play area. Work up a sweat pushing your youngster on the swing while doing squats in between or even lunges while the child goes up and down the slide. Fly a kite in the Valmasque near Mougins or walk around the 7 hectare Parc Pheonix (www.parc-phoenix.org) in Nice.
Swim. The public swimming pools offer decent and well-priced facilities for fami- lies. While you’re supervising your child you can workout, too: walking or aqua jogging with a foam belt against the resistance of the water. Performing squats, lunges and treading water is also a great workout. Nautipolis (www.nautipolis.fr) the Aquatic Centre in Sophia-Antipolis, offers Bébé nageur for 6 months to age 4.
Group Fitness classes. Find parent and child fitness classes, and meet other fit-minded parents. There are a several: Kidooland (www.kidooland.com) in Vallauris; Nice's Le Kids Club (www.lekidsclub.com); and Prune et Libellule at 14, boulevard de Lorraine in Cannes.
Dance. On a rainy day, turn on some music and dance together around the living room.
Cycle. Lots of bike paths provide safe trails for you and your child. Jump on one of the free Vélo Bleu bikes and pedal along the Promenade together or perhaps you can jog while your child cycles (with a helmet) along.
Teens Fitness, dance or yoga classes. Take your teen to one of your classes and they'll like that they are being treated like an adult. Fitlane (www.fitlane.com) has 7 local clubs in the region.
Rollerblading. Rentals are available on the Nice Promenade (please wear protective gear) and this can be entertaining for everyone.
Golf. There are lots of driving ranges and golf courses around and the younger you start, the better.
Sign up for a charity run or volunteer together for any one of the hundred organised events in the Alpes- Maritimes and really take in the atmosphere. La Niçoise (a 2.5km walk, part of the Nice Semi-Marathon) is open to all.