Wrestle with your kids ... for their health


As a father of two young children, it's not realistic for me to take them to the gym to workout or go on a three-mile run.

But one of the questions I often get from dads who want to involve their young children in their fitness lifestyle is "How?"

My advice: Get on the floor and play. Wrestle with your children.

There is a mountain of evidence that suggests roughhousing with dad helps children develop social skills and problem-solving skills.

In a 2011 article from ABC News, Australian researchers talked about how important it is for kids to wrestle and roughhouse with their father. Their research suggested that these interactions appear to help children "manage emotions and thinking and physical action together."

"When you look at fathers and their young children playing, you can see that for the child, it's not just a game. They obviously enjoy it and they're giggling, we know that's true, but when you watch the video, you can see that child is concentrating really hard … I think the excitement is related to the achievement that's involved," Fletcher said in the article. "It's not about a spoiled child not wanting to lose, I think that child is really striving for the achievement of succeeding."

Perhaps most fitting to being a Fit Dad; however, is the research that says that when fathers and their kids get on the floor and wrestle and tumble, it promotes children being more physically fit.

From an article on PsychCentral.com: "But physical fitness isn’t just about body strength, say the authors. It involves complex motor learning, concentration, coordination, body control, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility. So free play is going to offer different benefits than, say, gym class."

One of my favorite things to do with my kids is "trap" them underneath me, and they have to find a way to wriggle their way out of my grasp. They absolutely love this game.

As they get older, eventually we'll play "King of the Mountain," where I will stand with my hands on my knees, and my kids will have to find a way to climb up onto my shoulders. These are games my dad played with me and my sisters.

Sometimes, we just flat-out wrestle, with my kids each trying to "take me down."

And yes, I play just as rough and tumble with my daughter as I do with my son.

It's really that simple guys. Eventually, my kids will be old enough to run a race and play sports and go to the gym. But for now, it's playing chase at the parks and wrestling on the floor at night. No overthinking it.

To your kids, this time with their dad will mean the world to them, as it should to you as well.