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Fun family fitness ideas for the summer

Summer is great for kids and families to be active and stay fit while enjoying quality time together. 

Kids can easily become restless or bored during summer breaks from school. Many spend more time in front of screens – whether it’s on social media, watching TV, or playing games on a phone or tablet. 

Parents and caregivers must be mindful that they play a crucial role in helping kids stay active and healthy.

According to data from the Child Policy Research Center (PDF), 1 in 3 children in North Carolina are considered overweight or obese. Inactive kids are at risk of becoming unhealthy adults. A study published by the American Diabetes Association predicts that the number of kids with type 2 diabetes may jump 700% in the next 3 decades, due to obesity and sedentary lifestyles – a sobering statistic. 

The good news is this can be prevented.

We all love our kids and want them to be healthy now and throughout their lives. Giving them the best possible start with healthy foods and regular exercise benefits them today and into the future. Summer is the perfect opportunity to make exercise lots of fun, too.

Summer favorites for kids outdoor activities

When we think of good times in childhood, often it’s an outdoor activity that brings back memories of carefree fun in the sun, playing with friends or family. 

Here are a variety of outdoor activities for kids – and adults – to enjoy.

Cool off with water activities

Playing with water is classic summertime fun! Kids love swimming, pool games, slip-and-slides, running through a splash pad at a park, or playing in the sprinkler at home. Many municipal pools offer day passes without requiring a membership. 

Feeling adventurous? Check out North Carolina swimming holes across the state.  

Play outdoors

Think tag, hide-and-seek, jump rope, and hopscotch at home. Or go for a walk in your neighborhood. 

Play games like soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball, tennis, or pickle ball. They’re a great way to get everyone moving and enjoying friendly competition. Many municipal parks have courts and sports fields. 

Hoverboards and skating are also good forms of exercise because they develop core and leg strength and balance.

At night, have fun playing flashlight tag or chasing fireflies.

Visit a state, county, or municipal park

North Carolina’s state parks offer many outdoor activities that the whole family can enjoy. You’ll find hiking trails, kayaking and canoeing, nature walks, and more. Some parks offer horseback riding and camping opportunities as well.

You don’t have to go too far away for outdoor recreation. Go to a nearby playground and enjoy the swings, slides, monkey bars, and climbing equipment.

Ride a bike

You can go at your own pace when you take the family to ride on a scenic, paved trail. 

Check out the top 10 trails in North Carolina, according to the Rails to Trails Conservancy. One of the spots on the list is the popular American Tobacco Trail, spanning 22 miles from downtown Durham to Apex. There is ample parking and trail access at various points along the trail, so you can do a little or a lot.

Tips for making summer fitness work for your family

  • Involve kids in choosing activities.
  • Plan it out. Make a “fun calendar” with a new activity for each week.
  • If your family isn’t used to exercise, keep it short and engaging.
  • Be safe. Summer puts us at risk for heat-related illnesses, and that includes young people. It’s important to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and use precautions. Check out these tips on how to exercise safely in the summer heat, and what to do if someone is in trouble.

Beat the heat (or rain) with indoor fitness fun

Some days are too hot or rainy to play outside. But there are still plenty of fun and active options for indoors.

Try family yoga, dance, gymnastics, or other fitness programs designed for kids. City and county recreation departments offer free or low-cost sports and fitness programs – that’s a great place to start.

Check out your local YMCA to find a full schedule of summer fun for kids, including day camps. YMCAs provide financial assistance for those who cannot afford the full cost of programs.

Exercise from the comfort of your own home with online workouts. You can find plenty of videos on YouTube, like a playlist of kids workouts to do from home. Movement-based video games are also available on all the major gaming platforms, making fitness fun and interactive.

Get out there together and have fun

It might take a little planning, but the benefits are worth it. The best part is the memories you make with your family – while getting in some exercise, too.

For more ideas, check out my post on 100 screen-free ways to keep kids active this summer.

authors photo

Michelle Rogers

Michelle Rogers

Certified Personal Trainer

Michelle Rogers is a certified personal trainer who specializes in healthy living for adults over 40. She leads classes and workshops online at Reachable Fitness, her virtual exercise studio. Find out more at and connect on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @MRhealthyliving.

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