How to Create a Fitness Challenge With Your Family

Caucasian mother and son riding mountain bikes

Mike Kemp / Getty Images 

Setting up a simple, fun family fitness challenge is the perfect way to get everyone in the household motivated to get healthy. You can use a game or family project to really affect positive change for everyone. 

Setting a Fitness Challenge Goal

Start by holding a family meeting to kick off your challenge. Solicit everyone's ideas — little kids, too! — for a goal to work toward. You might want to target healthy eating, increased physical activity, new strength goals, or less screen time. You might decide to work toward a particular event (like a 5K run you'll do together), or jump-start a change that will become a regular part of your healthy lifestyle. If that's the case, make sure that's clear to the kids: This is not something that you're doing just temporarily to earn a reward. It's a new way of living.​

Spell out exactly what you're hoping to achieve and what you'll need to do to get there. For example, if you choose healthy eating, what does that mean? Maybe you'll cut back on fast food, add more vegetables to your daily menu, pack nutritious lunches for school and work, or drink more water. Make sure you're specific and that everyone is clear on the objective.

A family meeting is an opportunity for everyone to share their ideas and have them recognized. Consider each idea carefully before choosing one topic. Then refine the idea to make it specific.

Make a Plan

How will you track your family's progress during your fitness challenge? Plan whether you'll log minutes of exercise, steps taken (use a pedometer or other activity monitoring app so you'll know), pounds/inches lost, new foods tried, personal best records, and so on. Use whatever method works for your family's particular wellness goal. There are even games and other products you can use to keep tabs on what you're working on. Try healthy eating and kids' activity tracking.

But an old-fashioned star chart certainly works too. Your chart, ruler, or another tracker will serve as a visual reminder of what you're working on, and how far you've come. Post it in a prominent place. Then set a regular interval for a fitness challenge check-in. That's when you'll record your progress and troubleshoot any problems you're having. Maybe you'll log your daily steps each night at bedtime, or have a family meeting on Sundays at which each family member can share the progress he or she has made toward your group goal. Take this opportunity to cheer each other on!

Be specific about how you will track and measure your progress on your new fitness path. Set up a chart or other visual display so that everyone can see your collective achievements.

Choose a Reward

What are you striving for as you complete your family fitness challenge? Aside, of course, from the reward of better health, a more tangible prize can also help motivate your crew to keep going. So can the promise of an exciting experience.

Rewards can be something different for each person in your family or a group gift that you can all enjoy together. Food isn't a good choice because it promotes the idea that eating can change your mood and that you "deserve" high-fat, high-calorie treats when you do something good.

But almost anything else goes. What motivates your kids: Cold, hard cash? A new toy? A special outing? Best of all, choose a whole-family reward that reinforces your healthy lifestyle goal. That could mean a family pool pass, an outdoor toy you can all share, or a picnic at the best playground around.

Claim Your Fitness Challenge Prize

Once you've met your goal, it's time to celebrate. You did it! Give each other a hearty round of congratulations and enjoy your fitness challenge prizes.

It's also important to talk with your kids about what you learned from this effort. Maybe it's that you tried a challenging new workout and liked it, or that you really can get up at 5 a.m.! Ask them to share their own surprise lessons: Did someone discover a new favorite vegetable dish or master a new physical skill? That's worth cheering for!

After you've tasted success, don't rest on your laurels or allow backsliding. Keep the momentum going: Start again with a brand-new objective. If your first challenge prompted you to change your exercise habits, maybe your second one can tackle a healthy eating habit.

Or, stick with your original plan, but set the bar higher. If you successfully reduced your family screen time by a few hours a week, say, you could continue cutting back. Or if you completed a 5K, sign up for another one. Maybe you'd like to finish faster, but that's not necessary; keeping up your new fitness habit is more important.

No matter what goal you set, come up with an enticing new reward to go with it. Good luck!

Was this page helpful?