Like adults, children need regular exercise. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids participate in at least one hour of vigorous physical activity a day during most days of the week. Without lots of daily heart-pumping fun, children are at risk of becoming overweight or even obese, which can lead to a host of other health problems.
In the age of the internet, TV, smartphones and video games, figuring out how to get kids moving can be a challenge. Looking for more physical fitness ideas? The best way to get children moving is by involving the whole family. Just like teaching kids to eat their vegetables or to be kind to others, exercise is a learned behavior most easily modeled by parents.
Here are 5 suggestions for how your family can stay (or get!) active:
- Don’t overthink it. Exercising with your children doesn’t need to involve gyms, fitness regimes or even money. Keep it simple! With a little encouragement, kids should naturally want to participate in “free play.” This means playing games like tag, hide-and-seek or climbing on the jungle gym. Make exercise a family affair by taking a walk around the neighborhood or riding bikes after dinner. Go to the beach or pool to swim. Play a game of pick-up basketball or H-O-R-S-E. Just keep moving and have fun.
- Make time for sports or fitness classes. Enrolling your children in organized sports is an excellent way to ensure they get enough exercise. While most public schools offer free access to sports teams — like soccer or track and field — younger kids can join private or local sponsored teams. Check your area’s parks and recreation website for more info. Sports camps or classes also get kids moving. Depending on your child’s skills and interests, kickboxing, swimming, Taekwondo, Zumba or dance classes are all worthwhile options. These sports and activities provide more than exercise — they also teach self-discipline and lifelong social skills like teamwork.
- Have fun indoors. While getting kids outside to play is important, there’s no reason families can’t engage in physical activity inside. Consider establishing an evening routine of fast-moving activities that can be done at home. Play a Wii Fit game together. Stream dance music or videos and have an impromptu dance party in your living room! (TIP: YouTube is full of free kid-designed dance videos.) By getting kids off the couch, you’ll make a big difference in how they feel.
- Change your habits. Kids spend more than 7 hours per day using electronic devices for entertainment, according to HealthyChildren.org. This alarming amount of immobile screen time contributes to high rates of childhood obesity in the United States and elsewhere. By limiting children’s access to phones, TV and video games, more time can be allotted for movement. But remember, as kids grow older, they should participate in more than just play. Other daily activities can include age-appropriate chores, like taking out the garbage or helping with laundry. Cooking meals together, gardening, washing the car or taking family trips to the supermarket also encourage physical activity and wellness.
- Stick together. Children are less likely to get moving on their own if parents aren’t involved. Luckily, there are many benefits to exercising together. Besides the obvious promotion of good health and cardiovascular fitness, it offers time away from screens and other distractions to communicate and bond. It’s a great way for kids to have fun and for parents to relieve stress!
These are just a few suggestions to help get you started. Think about how you can create a healthier lifestyle in your household. By sticking together, the whole family reaps the benefits of saying goodbye to hours of couch-time.
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