One of the most positive aspects of exercise –beside health benefits– is that it can be really fun. Any kid who has spent summer afternoons outdoors, playing ball, skating or biking can confirm this. However, cars, technology, and entertainment have dramatically changed how much we move.
We are at a point where it is normal not to move during the day. We have normalized a sedentary lifestyle and thus are at risk of making decisions that are not good for the human body over time.
And when it comes to children and exercise, the picture is not getting any brighter. According to the World Health Organization, there are 41 million overweight or obese infants and young children. If current trends continue, that number will increase to 70 million by 2025.
Off the Couch and on the Field: Getting Our Kids to Move and Exercise
So how can we help create healthier lifestyles for kids? The younger your children develop physical activity and good nutrition habits, the more likely it is that they will maintain them for life.
Here are 6 ideas to get your kids off the couch and on their feet:
Make it a family activity
Kids might be unwilling to exercise if they see it as an additional chore. But if you join them and make exercising part of spending quality time with the family, their attitude will most likely shift. Set an example: bike together, play catch or go on a family hike.
Get the TV out of their room
It might be tempting for children to stay in bed and watch cartoons or play video games all day long, especially on vacations. To reduce the temptation, place the TV in the living room and suggest playing some active video games to make the most out of their screen-time.
Organize active play dates
Kids feed on their peers’ company and energy, so why not invite some of their friends ice-skating or swimming? Plus, feeling part of a community and having strong social ties encourages physical activity.
Let your child lead
Children are more likely to commit to something that was their idea in the first place, so let your child chose the activity the family will engage in. Whether it’s a basketball match or a dance party, try to be encouraging and empowering them to make these small choices.
Use exercise as a means
Physical activity doesn’t always have to be the final goal, it can very well be the means. If you’re going to visit grandma or to the movies, why not bike or walk there?
Get pedometers for the family
Kids enjoy measuring things up, so why not get a pedometer – a gadget that counts how many steps you take – for every family member and compare their numbers at the end of each day? A bit of healthy competition might make wonders for your kid’s motivation.
Remember to pair these activities with good, balanced nutrition. You can start your own backyard garden and get your kids involved in making breakfast or dinner. When discussing childhood obesity prevention, we need to focus on physical activity and healthy nutrition, but also on making sure kids feel motivated in a supportive environment.