For family day, fun ideas to get active with your family

Fitness expert James Fell shares a few ideas of how to spend time off with your family wisely

mother, mom, daughter, baby, swim, swimming, family, fun

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Half of the country has a holiday on Monday, whether it’s for Family Day, Islander Day or Louis Riel Day. For days when you don’t have to set the alarm for a week, here are some fun and active ways to enjoy the free days with your family.

1. Decide to move: Make a decision that you’re going to do something other than work on the butt-groove on your part of the couch. When you plan in advance that you’re going to do something (like be active), then you’re far more likely to follow through than if you just decide to wing it the day of.

2. Avoid lines: You don’t burn many calories standing in line, so think of all those popular things that families do when they have time off — and do something else. If you go to a place crammed with people you’ll be frustrated / the kids will complain / the day will not be fondly remembered.

3. Start brainstorming: Sit down with the people you’re going to be spending the day with and have some fun figuring out cool things to do that get your heart rate up, but not because the place is jam-packed with a bunch of other people whose sole purpose in life seems to be to drive you crazy. Think outside of the box and try to outdo each other with fun things that don’t necessarily have to cost money.

4. Bring a Lunch: Family excursions often involve going to places that sell food: Expensive, lousy tasting, greasy, high-calorie, sodium-impregnated food. Avoid this food. Instead, pack a lunch that is healthy and perhaps includes a small treat for the kids so you can avoid candy floss or mini donuts.

5. Steal My Ideas: My third step didn’t work out? Never fear, because I’ve done a little bit of thinking for you. Here are some ideas of mine that you can use if you’re hard up:

Go to the zoo: Okay, it may still be packed, but the thing about the zoo is that even if it’s busy it doesn’t mean you still can’t see everything and cram in a lot of activity. The nature of the zoo is such that you don’t usually have to line up for stuff except for food (so bring that lunch). Also, check the times and try to get there right when it opens so that parking is easier and there won’t be a huge line at the gate. Hit the most popular exhibits first and then tour the rest. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a large zoo, try to see it all. Take several hours to just walk, taking breaks to have the lunch you brought and recharge. When you get home, you’ll all be wiped from having a great time.

Go to the pool: This is a tricky one. To not go crazy at a pool during a holiday you need to either a) pick a pool that rarely gets crowded, or b) show up early.

We like to go to a wave pool that has a tendency to get jammed with too many people, but even on busy days we find that if we get their 15 minutes before the actual pool opens we can pay and get changed and be in the pool right at opening, and by the time the big crowds start to show up we’re mostly done.

I like wave pools for family outings because they almost enforce activity on the parents. If you’re looking for an excuse to get active, then these places prompt you to get out in the water and really swim for it and play with the kids. They often have slides as well than involve lots of stair climbing.

Snowshoeing: Jump on Google and find a place to rent them (I advise getting them the night before) and also search for good places to go. Chances are you won’t have to worry too much about lineups with this one.

Go sledding: If you do it right, you can burn a lot of calories on a sled hill. Don’t just stand there with a thermos full of coffee yapping with other parents; get involved! Get on that sled and pretend like you’re ten. Go roaring down the hill and then run back up to the top. If the kids ask you to pull them up the hill, then give it a try. Show them how tough mom really is. A couple of hours of sledding is going to burn way more calories than you ever would on an elliptical trainer, and it will be much more fun and the kids will think you’re awesome.

James S. Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, AB. Visit or email him at