Fitness Resolution: Move Like and Eight Year Old

Fitness resolutions are a drag.  Getting to the gym in January is cold, dark and tedious.  So how can you improve your fitness without being so serious?  I have decided that the solution is to “move like an eight year old”.

I have four children: 11, 9, 7 and 5.  And for their entire lives I have studied them in motion.  My kids are active.  They all play sports.  But they also just MOVE.  They move in a big, fast, constant and usually joyful way.  They are amazing to watch and even more fun to emulate.  They dance…all the time.  They do jumping jacks and skip.  Most interestingly, my children practice and compete with themselves and each other to be faster and better, just because it is fun.

About a year ago, when my oldest son was 8, I decided to conduct an experiment and move like an eight year old for a few weeks.  Now, I am also pretty active.  I am a runner, hockey player, and yoga enthusiast.  There really isn’t anything active that I don’t like.  But as an adult, I had put a formality to exercise.  It had to be at a certain time.  I had to wear the right clothing.  So there were many opportunities for activity that I missed because I was too rigid.

When you decide to move like an eight year old the rules change.  And based on my small experiment, you become more fit.  When my kids practiced shooting hockey pucks in the garage, so did I.  Ten minutes of this repetitive action is a deep core exercise that builds upper body strength.  I stopped sitting at the edge of the pool and jumped in and swam.  I ran every mini-race that they did.   I danced fast and furious.  The best part was that I engaged more fully with my kids along the way.  I became a participant instead of a supervisor and that was really fun.

So my advice to everyone is “move like an eight year old”!  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • If you have a minute…move!  This is especially true if you work in an office sitting all day.  Just get up and go for a short walk, twist, jump up a down.  It wakes you up and gets your blood pumping.
  • Touch your toes.  As adults, we become less flexible.  Partially because our bodies change but also because we stop using them.  Stretch and bend!
  • You don’t need exercise clothes to get exercise.  How many pairs of grass-stained dress pants have you washed for your boys and girls?  Kids play and move, no matter what they are wearing.  Don’t let you clothes get in the way of a little movement.  I’ve discovered that I can effectively run in 2 inch heels.
  • 8 year olds don’t drive.  The message here is if you can walk, don’t drive.  This is an insight about 8 year olds but also about city dwellers.  Make a commitment to walk your children to the bus or school on nice days.  Walk down your street, to the library, wherever you can.  You will be amazed at how easy, lovely and environmentally friendly it is to tour the world by foot.
  • Learn something new.  Part of the motivation for an 8 year old to move is their desire to learn something new.  They practice.  They achieve and they build self-esteem.  This is a model that we often forget as adults.  It is very gratifying to learn something new, even it is as simple as running backwards.
  • Never be self-conscious.   Think about watching a child learn to do a cart-wheel or head-stand.  There is nothing but determination and excitement amidst the flailing arms and
    legs.  I highly recommend trying a cartwheel or headstand if you haven’t done one in a while.  Both offer incredible mini-experiences filled with whoosh and satisfaction.
  • Finally, movement should make you smile.  As part of your own “move like an eight year old experiment”, try to measure your happiness and stress.  It is tough to feel bad, sad or stressed while you are skipping down the street.