A family bike riding

Josie Gibson’s 7 day family fitness challenge

Three families took on our week-long fitness bootcamp - find out how you can do it too!

By ,
Josie Gibson’s 7 day family fitness challenge

Josie Gibson, 32, The Jump contestant and personal trainer, knows just how important it is to stay active, having lost an amazing 7st through changing her own diet and exercise regime.

"It’s important to get kids into fitness habits from an early age"

"Sadly, one child in three in the UK is now overweight or obese *," says Josie, and as a result she stresses "it’s important to get kids into fitness habits from an early age."

If you’re one of the 80% of families in the UK who don’t do the recommended amount of exercise**, you’re probably not alone. ‘There’s always an excuse not to get moving,’ argues Josie, ‘time, housework, your job, the weather – so you need to build exercise into your family routine.’ 

A kick-start is the best way to get going, she suggests, and to prove this Josie has created a week-long ‘boot-camp’ for families who’ve let their fitness slide. Three families were given a plan that took into account their lifestyle and daily routines, with a rest-day on the Sunday.

Here’s how they did...

The Shields family

Julia Shields, 38, a copywriter, lives in Yatton, Bristol with her husband Doug, 49, a PR director, and their sons Will, 13, Alex, nine, Eric, six, and Bear, three.

Julia says "With work and four boys to ferry to activity clubs, we don’t exercise as much as we once did. We’ve been married for 12 years and used to both work out at the gym a couple of times a week. Despite not going anymore, we’re still paying our membership fees in the hope we’ll get our act together but, with four young children, there simply isn’t time now. 

"Doug and I have both put on weight and I feel exhausted most of the time. Getting everyone organised and out of the door for school is tiring enough, not to mention the fact we’re constantly cooking for the kids and cleaning up after them. I’m intrigued to find out whether we’ll be able to find the time to incorporate exercise into our family routine."

Monday - No-car day and a 45-minute walk after dinner.

Tuesday -  Family burpees – do these every time there’s an ad break on TV.

Wednesday - No-car day and a family planking competition – see who can hold a plank the longest.

Thursday - Family Nerf battle for 30 minutes in
the garden or park.

Friday - Family disco – compile a playlist of everyone’s fave songs, then dance to it for 45 minutes. 

Saturday - Kids lead the way – go for a walk, but the children get to decide the route and length.

The verdict

"We all found it hilarious doing burpees during the ad breaks but, as well as all having a laugh as a family, we also got out of breath every time which must have been good for us. The boys loved the planking, too – they’re all competitive. I read online that if you can’t hold a plank for 120 seconds you’re either overweight, too weak or doing something wrong in your workouts. So I need to work on that! 

"The boys have already asked if we can have a Nerf battle every week and I enjoyed the boogie we had at our disco. None of it really felt like exercise because we were more focused on the family time instead. Still, Doug and I were aching by the end of the week – my abs have definitely seen better days! 

"I count my daily steps on my smartphone and usually average about 5,000 steps, which includes walking our dog. On the no-car day, it shot up to 14,000! Although walking everywhere seemed like a hassle at first, I was happy with the end results – even after my youngest, Bear, had a tantrum, lay down on the pavement and refused to move. 

"I always thought I didn’t have time to exercise but doing it as a family means we’re all getting fit and spending more quality time together, too. 

"The best thing is, it’s all free – I’m going to cancel those gym memberships and save us a bit of cash!"

The Andrews family

Gemma Andrews, 32, a housewife, lives in Chesterfield with her husband Michael, 31, a security guard, and their children Lewis, 13, Macie, 11, Findlay, three, and Noah, 10 months.

Gemma says "We could do more with the kids and we should do more ourselves to get fit and lose weight but it’s easy to find excuses when you’ve got a hectic schedule. I used to do Zumba three times a week but since I stopped two years ago, I’ve ballooned to a size 22. I want to lose two dress sizes by the summer but Michael is out of work so we can’t afford the gym. Lewis is always glued to his Xbox, so I’m worried about what he’ll think of this challenge. 

"I always feel like I’m fighting a losing battle to get him outdoors. The only reason he was active last year was Pokémon Go. I don’t want my younger boys to follow in his footsteps and would like to instil fitness into their lifestyle from an earlier age but I don’t know where to start – the thought of rounding them all up makes me feel drained."

Monday - After-school swimming for one hour, and see who can tread water for the longest time. 

Tuesday - No-wheels day – walk everywhere, no bus and, in the evening, a 45-minute walk. 

Wednesday -  Balloon keepy-uppy, then catch, with a two-burpees forfeit for dropping the balloon – 30 minutes each.

Thursday - Tag – play in the garden or local park for 30 minutes after school. 

Friday - YouTube yoga – find a beginner’s yoga workout online and do it together as a family. 

Saturday - Family footie – play for 25 minutes, then the losing team has to run three laps of the garden. 

The Verdict

Gemma says "Until we took this challenge, I didn’t realise how much space we had for activities together in the week. It’s been a fantastic bonding experience. 

"I was overjoyed that Lewis got involved – he was chuffed to win the pool challenge, treading water for seven minutes! He also loved the jeopardy of whoever lost at football having to run laps – and we all had a good laugh when Michael and I lost! 

"It’s spurred Macie to start working at the local stables in return for free riding lessons. Findlay is out of his pushchair, and sleeping and eating better as a result of walking more. 

"Our chaotic household was surprisingly calm after yoga – the kids were really inspired by the animal-themed moves, like Cobra and Downward-Facing Dog. 

"It’s ages since Michael and I worked up a sweat but this challenge was cheaper and more fun than the gym. We’re all happier when we’re active – I’m determined to keep this up."

The Finnegan family

Vicki Finnegan, 62, and husband Mike, 61, are grandparents to Sofia, 18 months. They are retired and live near Plymouth. Vicki says "We used to do gardening, long walks and tennis. But if the weather’s bad and we’ve had Sofia for the day, it’s easier to find an excuse to relax on the sofa than get the trainers on and get out. As retired doctors, we know it’s vital to stay fit, and we used to run marathons. I feel guilty we’ve fallen by the wayside. I feel sluggish and Mike has a bit of a paunch!"

Monday - Standing press-ups – do these (carefully) against a worktop, while cooking. After lunch, go for a 90-minute walk. 

Tuesday - No-car day – speed-walk everywhere, including errands and the shops. While queuing, tense abs for 20 seconds, relax for 10 and tense again for 20 until you’re served. 

Wednesday -  15 burpees and 50 abdominal crunches before the morning shower.

Thursday - Wash and polish the car and walk up and downstairs 20 times.

Friday - Go the long way. Walk for 90 minutes before eating dinner at your fave restaurant, then walk home. 

Saturday - Picnic hike – load your backpacks with food, plus 1L water as extra weight. Map a three-mile route to a picnic spot. Walk there, enjoy an al fresco lunch, then walk back. 

The Verdict

Vicki says "It’s easy to get complacent when you’ve got time on your hands. Mike and I were surprised at how much exercise we could fit in. We enjoy eating out but adding a long walk to the meal made it feel more deserved. We also found that the more exercise we did, the more energy we had. Even playing with Sofia in the park, not just watching her, helped increase our heart rates.  

"We live in a village in the middle of nowhere so the no-car day was tricky – we ended up walking for three hours to buy a pint of milk! It felt strange tensing my abs in the local shop while having a chat with the owner, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it if I start to see results in the long term. The burpees made me realise how unfit I am – by the end of the week, I just about managed 10 without stopping but they still turned my legs to jelly. 

"There’s a lot we’ll take away from the week and we’ve both promised we’ll incorporate little things like adding extra weight to our backpacks and relying less on our cars. Now the sun’s out again, I’m keen to get back in the garden, too!" 

Try it at home

Josie’s week-long bootcamp can be built into your weekly routine, with a bit of planning. 

Josie says "As our families found, there’s always time to fit in exercise, no matter how busy you are. The key is thinking on your feet – literally – and working exercise into other activities. 

"If family time is a priority for you, play in the garden rather than sitting indoors and watching a movie. If you’re picking the kids up from school, walk, or if you have to drive, park further away, get there early and go for a pick up power walk. Making huge, sweeping lifestyle changes can be daunting, but as soon as you switch your mindset to being more active, losing weight and getting fit becomes a much more realistic proposition.

"Make sure you schedule time, too – it can make so much of a difference. We keep to a timetable for work and we wouldn’t dream of letting down the dentist when we’ve booked an appointment, so start treating your exercise time with the same level of commitment you do other aspects of your life. 

"Finally, don’t put it off or say “I’ll start tomorrow” – if you have time right now, put the magazine down and go for a walk. If you’ve only got a few minutes, do a few burpees. The change you want starts today." 

*Children in Year 6. Source Public Health England. 

**Source: Study by Centre for Market and Public Organisation at Bristol University.