By Laurie Searle
Laurie SearleThe school year is approaching and that means busier, bustling days.

We interrupt our regularly unscheduled summer vacations of carefree bonding with kids and return to the structure of school programs and extra-curricular activities.

It’s a sluggish notion to get back into the routine knowing there are few moments to spare for space, connection and fitness. Fitting in physical fitness is a challenge, but doesn’t have to be a long laborious‘to do’. Physical stimulation every day, as a family, releases stress and promotes mindfulness on the myriad of things grasping at our attention whether it’s calculus or dinner prep.

Start the habit now and take breaks as a family. These family fit fetes allow you to strengthen the muscles and mind while increasing focus and having a little fun.

Homework hijack
Take a break between homework subjects for a race around the block, the house, or up and down the staircase. Do several ‘laps’ up to three minutes for heart strengthening cardio and stress release or stay in the living room and do a hundred jumping jacks.

Every time you and your kids commit to race or jump, the kids get a gold star.

Do this every school night and the kid who accrues the most stars by the end of the week gets a free pass from chores for a day. If all the kids take part each day, they get a free healthy treat at your favorite yogurt shop or earn credits toward a movie night with friends (be clever with the prize and make if fair for all siblings so no one feels like they ‘lose’.)

Hot couch potato
During TV hour and after homework, let the commercial break be an opportunity to engage in some family fun.

Each time a commercial break comes on during your favorite show (about 2-3minutes, 3-4 times a half hour show), take your feet hip distance apart on the floor and get off your butt from the couch to stand. Sit down again barely touching your bum to the couch imagining the couch is super fire, oven baking hot and get up right away. Repeat as many times as you can during the break. Lift your arms up over your head each time you stand up to increase the intensity. You can also add a kick switching legs each time you rise (as long as there isn’t any furniture in front of you).

The one with the most hot potatoes gets a gold star.

Prime Time Punch
During the next TV show, work the upper body. Hold on to 16 oz, filled water bottles in each hand and punch it out. Reach toward the TV one arm at a time and give a gold star for the kid with the most punches or all kids if they participate.

Then, each break following the punches, isolate the muscles of the arm, chest and back and do bicep curls the second break, triceps’ extensions the second break, shoulder presses the one after that, followed by chest press pushes.

Get a whole work out in while watching your favorite shows.

On the weekend, schedule a little more time to connect.

Tap into your inner child
Remember camp? Well, it’s time to introduce those exercises to your children.

In the park or yard, practice wheelbarrow. Kid one places their hands shoulder distance apart on the floor and walks the legs back into a plank. Kid two (or yourself) holds onto kid one’s legs. Kid one walks on their hands forward and back 5-10 paces, releases then switch kids or do another set. That’s a fun one for building upper body strength for all ages.

Individual pillow sack races
Toss a coin to pick the tagger. Each family member starts at different parts of the yard, room or park. Take a pillow sack and put one leg in. Hold the pillow sack by each open corner lifting the leg and hop on the other leg trying to escape/tag one another. When the next person is tagged switch legs and continue one or two more sets each leg. The more people the better. This is great whole body, whole family exercise helping you work on balance, agility and concentration. Add a finish line if you want to inspire healthy competition. If you have many people participating, share the pillow sack. Sharing a ‘leg’ builds trust and it certainly inspires giggles, which guess what, tones, and strengthens the belly.

Please wash the pillow sacks when you are done.

Swap teach/coach
If you have older kids in the family, have your kids teach you a new game they learned in P.E. or, if your kids are involved in sports, have them teach you the warm up/drill or cool down their coach taught them. This encourages confidence, integration of information, trust, teamwork and helps you get your work out in too.

Laurie Searle is a personal fitness trainer, yoga teacher and writer in Los Angeles. For more information you can email Laurie at