How to Create a Fun Family Fitness Frenzy With a Deck of Cards

Got some competitive kids?

Looking for a fun fitness challenge the whole family can enjoy together?

Grab a deck of cards and amp up family game night or any time with this fun, easy and active exercise game.

In this article I’ll show you how a simple deck of cards can get your hearts racing and turn your living room into a premier fitness club by playing 52 Pickup Fitness Frenzy.

Discover how a simple deck of cards can get your hearts racing and turn your living room into a premier family fitness club with 52 Pickup Fitness Frenzy.

Why Play 52 Pickup?

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “52 Pickup”? I remember losing a card game and hearing the victor scream that phrase as he launched the cards in the air and ran away, leaving me to clean them up.

We all love to play games, but who wants that kind of memory associated with playing cards or family game night?

I’ve got a version of 52 Pickup that trumps those old negative images with fun, fitness and family togetherness.

52 Pickup Fitness Frenzy is a fun competition to enjoy with your kids. Choose your favorite activities and then pick up the cards to prompt the game’s play. Everyone who picks up the cards is a winner.

Looking for a quick physical activity to perk the kids up before they tackle homework or an active game to play on your next family game night?

A simple deck of playing cards can provide hours of fun fitness and quality time with your kids.

4 cards

Grab a deck of cards and get moving.

Playing games with the family is a great way to grow closer together and make memories that they’ll remember for a long time.

Exercise has been shown to increase focus and improve mood. Both are much needed if homework is on the to-do list.

As a physical education teacher, I’m always on the lookout for fun new ways to get kids excited about exercise.

Include some the exercises from this video in your game of 52 Pickup or just get inspired by this 10 year old!

52 Pickup Fitness Frenzy has been a big hit with the kids at my school. It always gets our crew active and engaged, so I wanted to share it with you here at My Kids’ Adventures.

What You’ll Need

  • 1 deck of playing cards
  • Paper
  • Black and red writing utensils
  • Enough space to perform exercises
  • Drinking water

Preparation Time

2-5 minutes to get the cards and create the exercise guide

Activity Time

10-30 minutes to complete the entire deck


  • Indoors: The living room, basement, garage or large empty space
  • Outdoors: A grassy area, driveway or playground/park

Optional Equipment

  • Timer/stopwatch
  • Yoga or gym mat
  • Exercise equipment (jump rope, dumbbells, resistance band) if you choose exercises that require equipment

52 Pickup Fitness Frenzy is easy. All you do is grab a deck of cards, choose which exercises to do for each suit and start flipping cards.

#1: Ante Up

Before you start 52 Pickup Fitness Frenzy, you need to assign an exercise to each suit in the deck—hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs.

To make it even more fun, think of exercises that relate to the suit. For example, do jumping jacks when a heart is drawn because cardiovascular exercise is good for your heart.

kids exercising

It doesn’t take much to get this bunch moving.

Or do push-ups for diamonds because you want a body as hard as that precious rock. Okay, that may be a stretch, but you get the idea.

Exercises That Suit the Suit:

  • Hearts (cardiovascular)—jumping jacks, jump rope, running laps around the house, mountain climbers
  • Diamonds (core strength)—plank, sit-ups, leg lifts, scissor kicks
  • Spades (legs)—squats, burpees, lunges, wall sits
  • Clubs (arms)—push-ups, air punches, dips, bicep curls

The possibilities are endless. You could also substitute stretches or sports skills for exercises.

We’ve found it works better if you write down what exercises you’re going to do. Grab a piece of paper and colored writing utensils and have at it. Simple and sleek or all “Pinteresty,” it doesn’t matter.

choosing exercise

Let the kids choose the exercises. Play indoors or outdoors. We played on a snowy day and had to choose indoor exercises.

On that same sheet of paper, write out how many repetitions of each exercise must be performed when a certain card is drawn. You can assign whatever value to each card you decide. Here is what we typically do.

  • 2-9 means the # of exercises performed equals the number on the card (i.e., 2 of hearts equals 2 jumping jacks).
  • Jack, queen and king equal 15 repetitions of the assigned exercise.
  • Ace equals 1 or 20, depending on the age of the kids playing.
  • Joker equals 25 repetitions or a lap running around the house. (There are only 2 jokers.)

#2: The Deal

Once you have the exercises set, it’s time to play.

Grab the deck of cards and remove any blank or unnecessary cards. Shuffle the deck. Spread the cards out upside down in the center of the room.

pile of cards

Spread cards on the floor of your playing area. This kind of 52 Pickup will be FUN.

Make sure each person has enough space to exercise. To check your personal space, put your arms straight out and slowly spin in a circle. If you touch someone or something, you need more room.

Explain the rules to everyone playing:

  • No peeking and putting back. You flip it, you get it.
  • Grab one card, take it back to your spot.
  • Perform the number of repetitions for the exercise matching that card.
  • Discard the completed card face up next to the draw pile.
  • Grab another card and repeat until ALL the cards are gone.

#3: All-in

Now that the cards are dealt—game on!

This game can be played alone or with a whole group of family or friends. It’s a lot more fun to play together, though!

picking a card

Flip, exercise, repeat.

Share in the experience by exercising to the cards together or tag-teaming your way through the deck.

Younger kids love to copy the exercises you do.

Older kids are usually on a mission to finish.

doing sit ups

Don’t forget to breathe throughout a sit-up. Exhale up, inhale down.

#4: Table Talk

While you flip through the cards and do the exercises, take advantage of this time with your kids to facilitate conversation about fitness, health or family activities.

  • What is your favorite exercise? Least favorite?
  • What muscles do (push-ups, sit-ups, squats) make stronger?
  • Think about when we started. Is your heart beating faster or slower? Why?
  • What other family fitness activities would you like to do?

Observe how the game is going. Change the exercises if the kids’ form or interest starts to decrease.

Pause for water if everyone is getting tired and breathing heavy.

have enough space

Make sure everyone has enough space to exercise.

A fun variation is to have each participant keep all the completed cards in a pile, then add up the total number of exercise repetitions performed at the end. This is great if your players are extra-competitive.

#5: Raise the Stakes

You can increase the intensity of the workout or create a more competitive game with these two simple changes:

Call the Clock:

Set a timer for 5, 10 or 20 minutes and see how many cards one person or the group can complete in a given time period. (You can simply return the cards, upside down, to the discard pile so you don’t run out of cards and can keep the game going.)

Track progress by playing once a week and see if you can beat the previous week’s time.

the competition begins

Can you tell we thrive on competition?!

Hi-Lo Split:

Split the group into two teams. Divide the cards equally onto two mats.

Each team must draw a card from the closest mat. Perform the exercise. Return the card to the other team’s mat.

race against clock

A race against the clock and the other team.

The team with the fewest cards at the end of the time limit…WINS. No betting required.

Some Final Thoughts

52 Pickup Fitness Frenzy is a great activity to keep the family fit and having fun together. It’s a quick, easy way to change up family game night or add in some activity to your kids’ after-school routine.


Go all-in.

Everyone will win.

What do you think? Did you change the rules to better suit your family? Did your kids come up with any crazy exercises they learned at school? I’d love to hear all about it. Please share your experience with words or a photo in the comment section below.

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About the Author, Jon Kidwell

Jon Kidwell is the founder of Finding Fit, a company focused on empowering people to lose weight and maintain healthy lifestyles. Learn more at Other posts by »

  • Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Jon! What a fun, unique way to turn exercise into a game. Love all the variations. I think this would be a great, quick activity for my son’s Cub Scout pack to get the wiggles out before a meeting.

  • Jon Kidwell

    Thanks Jennifer!

    Oh my gosh- Boy scouts, Sunday school, or after-school programs would be a great place for this activity too! Great idea. I hope they enjoy.

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