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Most people need to get more exercise. Most people have families or friends in the same condition. What a win-win victory to combine the two! Studies have shown that some form of activity improves many aspects of physical and mental health, including resistance to certain diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Regular exercise also improves sleep quality, energy level, digestion, weight control, heart function, stamina, flexibility, balance, mood, and more! Using the buddy system helps strengthen bonds among people by teaching them to work together for common goals.

Sylvia Rimm, a psychologist and Director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, states in her blog that “exercise not only improves health, but increases self-confidence and reduces anxiety in children.” Exercising together can help build family stability as well as improve performance in school and at work, decreasing stress generated by emotional conflict, which is known to interfere with the well-being of people of all ages.

It’s important to establish the habit of communicating regularly with each other about the family exercise plan, respecting each person’s contribution to the group. Decide the exercise goals: lowering blood pressure? Losing weight? Increasing endurance? The basic goal is to learn to work together instead of competing against each other.

So what kinds of exercise can different people do together? Brainstorm about which activities sound like fun to everyone, and be sure to exchange information with the family doctor before beginning a program. Here are some suggestions:

Walking together in a safe place is a good start: around the block, at the mall, on a local park trail. Family members can share their day’s experiences or plan future exercise outings.

Throw or kick a ball back and forth, or bring the dog to the dog park with a frisbee.

Ride bicycles together. There’s a model of bicycle to suit everyone’s physical ability.

Create and maintain a family garden.

Go skating or rollerblading together.

Sign up for a martial arts class.

Try geocaching and painted rock hunting — it’s all the rage now, scavenger hunts in which the entire family can participate almost anywhere in the country.

Need to exercise indoors? Make a family playlist of dance music. Or check out Jon Kidwell’s Family Fitness Frenzy ideas with a deck of cards here.

Finally, remember to have fun staying active together!