A Hiking We Will Go: Family Promise Union County Makes Family Fitness a Priority

A hiking outing

August 23, 2021

As part of our ongoing conversation on homelessness, we asked members of the Family Promise network and individuals working to serve families experiencing homelessness to share their personal thoughts and reflections on Family Promise and the issue of family homelessness. These writers are true thought leaders, using their skills and expertise to develop and implement creative solutions that are changing the lives of parents and children in their communities. This post is from Family Promise Union County and Margaret Robb, a volunteer at FPUC.

This article was originally published on The New Jersey Healthy Communities Network.

The COVID pandemic encouraged us all to find innovative ways to exercise away from gyms, PE classes, and crowded spaces. People found ways to attend virtual exercise classes, they found 10-minute yoga and ab challenges on YouTube, or even set up a home gym with weights and bouncy balls.

COVID also inspired us to pick up a hobby or two and get outside to satisfy our craving for social interaction. That’s why we decided to blend a mix of in-person, outdoor group hiking expeditions, and virtual exercise options for our second annual Summer Family Fitness Challenge. This year we carried out a hiking outing to the South Mountain Reservation. We passed Hemlock Falls and then took in the view at Balls Bluff. Families learned how to comfortably navigate hiking trails, from following trailblazers to learning Leave No Trace to proper fuel and hydration. The children made a game of being the first to find the trailblazers!

For this year, as part of the Family Promise Summer Fitness 21 day calendar, families will have the option to do at-home fitness routines in addition to in-person outdoor options, giving everyone a chance to engage in fitness and fun in safe ways. We built upon last year’s virtual calendar, where we brought in Darebee bodyweight exercises, which require no equipment and have variable levels as participants pick and choose from over 100 workouts -abs, balance, planks, and more. Each workout describes which muscle groups individuals will be focusing on. It is a great way to educate about the intentions of each exercise while providing information about why and how that exercise helps strengthen the body.

One of the exercise games we came up with was UNO Fitness. A spinoff from last year’s Alphabet Challenge, we wanted to encourage families to get up and moving with a familiar family-friendly card game. Essentially, a player chooses a card from the deck. Depending on what number, drawcard, reverse card, or color change card they draw, they do an exercise.

Another thing we incorporated into this calendar was adding some educational rest days. These include making a smoothie and learning how to take care of a veggie plant. Both teach families how to grow healthy ingredients and utilize them to keep them fueled up throughout an active day.

Moreover, we included links to Adriene’s yoga channel. These videos can show families how to stretch properly and prevent injuries. Along with these activities, we included incentive gifts. Each family received a deck of UNO cards to get started. Those that participated in the hike received gifts that promote outdoor protection including sunscreen and sunglasses. Everyone who completes the challenge will receive a gift of a book of hiking trails in NJ, resistance bands, and resistance band workout posters. We hope that this fitness calendar promotes a healthy lifestyle that people of all ages can use to learn, challenge themselves, and grow.

Thank you to Margaret Robb for contributing to this blog entry and for creating the 2021 Family Promise Summer Fitness challenge and leading our hiking outing. Ms. Robb is a student at Mount Holyoke studying Neuroscience and Behavior. She is also a Community Health & Wellness and Athletics Fellow and serves on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at Mount Holyoke.

Overlook Family Medicine and Family Promise Union County have partnered to provide health education to the many families we serve who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Family Promise Union County provides emergency shelter, food, and services to families, and individuals who are homeless in Union County, with professional staff and a vast volunteer network.

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