by: Michael Kabel


Summer is the time of year to look and feel great for the entire family. Between the kids getting out of school, the parents' annual vacation, and the number of holidays between Memorial and Veteran's Days, there's lots to do outside and plenty of reasons to enjoy spending active time together.


Getting in shape after a long, cold winter is the work of several months, though. It's often not hard to do, but physical fitness entails the discipline to get in shape and then to stay in shape. For your children especially, maintaining the right level of fitness is essential to helping them begin a long and relatively illness-free life.


Presented below are five ways to help your family get in shape. They're guidelines, not rules, and those with preexisting conditions should speak with their doctor before attempting anything too strenuous.


  1. Plan your goals.


How fit do you see yourself come this summer? Realistically planning your exercise goal is a way to shape your workouts so that they don't do too much or too little.


Maybe the best way to size up your ambition is to phrase it in the form of a sentence. "I want to hit my ideal body weight." "I want to lose ___ pounds." "I want to lower my body fat percentage." You should discuss your children's fitness goals, too, helping them come to a comfortable decision that's nonetheless challenging.


  1. You gotta walk before you can run.


The best first step in a physical fitness plan involves plenty of walking. Experts recommend taking brisk walks of thirty minutes a day, five days a week, to charge up the metabolism and cardiovascular system. For families, this can be an important bonding time at the end of the day.


Keeping your walks constant and on a regular schedule is the real key to making them work their best. Don't skip a day and then walk twice as long the next. That only makes your muscles tired. As your body adjusts to the exertion, you can add time to the daily walks.


  1. Build your fitness with a family boot camp.


Once the walking is up and going, you should add a regimen of calisthenics to your daily exercise routine. Alone or with the kids, try doing stomach crunches and push-ups in sets of ten several days a week.


For children, completing these exercises helps keep them limber and even prepares them for any athletic training they might undertake later.


  1. Watch what you eat.


Keep the foods high in saturated fats and empty calories off the menu as much as possible. Simply removing fast foods, junk foods, and soft drinks from your weekly eating will erase almost all such harmful ingredients from your diet.


  1. Plan to undertake new sports.


Once your family's feeling the benefits of your efforts, you can start planning new activities and new hobbies with which to enjoy the summer and fall. Taking up any number of athletics pastimes, such as biking, tennis, or roller-blading, will help you stay in shape while providing family time together.