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A Workout the Whole Family

alivebynatureThis game-oriented regimen designed by Lynne Vaughan, director of program services for the Chicago-based YMCA of the USA, is ideal for adults and children aged four to 11, but with some creative modifications, even tod­dlers can participate. What you’ll need: a safe backyard or playground, a playground or soccer ball for kicking, two adult-sized T-shirts and two pairs of shorts.

1. Follow-the-leader warm-up (five minutes): Form a line with an adult as the leader, letting kids take turns afterward. Start by weaving in and out so the line snakes back and forth.

Then add the following activities:
• Walk on tiptoe for three to five steps, reaching arms toward the sky, then walk normally for three to five steps. Repeat four to five times.
• Extend your arms to the sides and swoop like an airplane, bending right and left.
• Gently flap your arms like a bird, slowly raising them up over your head and down.
• Walk like a monkey, with your back bent and your arms hanging down.
• Hop on one foot, then the other.
• Walk backward, sideways and forward.
• Walk tall, stretching your torso to the sky, then squat down and walk like a duck.

2. Circle ball (five minutes): Gather in a circle, standing far enough apart to hold hands when your arms are extended to the sides. Drop hands and give a ball to the person with the next birthday, who must then kick it to someone in the circle. That person should kick it to someone else, the object being not to let the ball go outside the circle. Jog or march in place when you’re not kicking. To make the game more challenging, widen the circle and continue kicking. For small families: Stand facing one another and kick the ball back and forth.

3. Color tag (10 minutes): Pick a color that only one person is wearing and des­ignate him “it.” When everyone has been tagged, pick a new color. Have tagged family members jog or March in place. For small families: Choose colored objects to run to. For instance, someone might spot a red fire hydrant, yell “red hydrant!” and race everyone to try and tag it first. Alternate turns.

4. Clothing relay (five minutes): Divide into two teams. Place two sets of T-shirts and shorts next to each other on the ground and mark the spots with a rock. Then mark a starting line several feet away from the rocks. On “Go!” each team member must run from the starting line to a set of clothes, put them on over his or her own clothes, run back to the starting line, remove the extra clothing and hand it to the next person, who then runs to the rock and repeats the process. March or jog in place while awaiting your turn. The last person on each team to run and get back to the starting line keeps the clothes on and sits down along with his team members.

5. Cool down dude (five minutes): Walk slowly in a circle, crouching lower and lower until you’re all sitting on the ground. Have someone lead the following stretches:

• Extend both legs in front of you and reach for your toes, touching them if you can. Hold for a count of five. Repeat two more times.
• Spread your legs and reach toward one leg with both hands, then the other, holding each stretch for a count of five. Repeat three times on each side.
• Lie on your back with your arms extended over your head. Stretch from the tips of your fingers to your toes, holding for as long as you can.
• Stand erect and, moving only your head, look to your right, then your left, then down.
• Wrap your arms around your chest and give yourself a big hug. Then hug one another.

These fun family activities were first published by