Survey says today 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese and even more have health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.
This can set a lifelong pattern as people who were overweight as a child have a 70% chance of being overweight adults.
The American Heart Association recommends at least an hour of physical activity every day for children ages 2 and up. So how can you encourage your kids to exercise? Here are a few tips-
Plan Exercise Daily
Be sure your child has time in their day for activity. Work the activity into their daily schedule. If their school is close by, walk to school. Have picnics at the park for afternoon snack, and have them play for a while afterwards. Don’t forget the classic, “Go out to the yard now. I will call you in for dinner.”
Make sure the activities you plan are age appropriate. A kindergartener is not going to be able to run 5K, and trying to make them will make them not want to exercise and make them uncomfortable with you. Play tag, go swimming, go for walks in a local park together.
Keep track on a chart or calendar, a star or sticker for every day with exercise. After a set amount of stars are charted, do another fun thing - go to a new park, or to a zoo, or have a special picnic lunch.
Exercise Together - Role Model
Show your kids activity is fun by exercising yourself. Even better, join them or have them join you. You can even invest in some nice gym clothes or new yoga pants if that will get you motivated to be more active, which will in turn make you a better example. There are yoga centres, gyms, dojos, and fitness centres that have family-oriented classes and facilities.
If you want to keep things a little more simple, play active games. Go for walks in the woods and talk about life and what you see in nature.
Limit Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time, sometimes to just an hour a day, for kids. That includes all screens - TV, computers, phones, video games, and tablets. If the kids are not glued to a screen, they are more likely to go out and play.
Many families find that using screen time as positive reinforcement is helpful in guiding children to make good choices. Examples would be things like: if your homework is done and I’ve checked it, then you can play Playstation for half an hour; after yoga class, then we will watch TV.
Make it Fun
Make sure your kids have active toys such as swings, balls, jump ropes, and bicycles. Play active games as a family. Don’t underestimate the impact, both healthwise and in having a healthy relationship with your kids, of having family games of tag, basketball, soccer, frisbee, or hide and seek. And have variety; kids often won’t want the same thing all the time.
Let Them Choose
Avoid power struggles. Let the kids choose what they want to do. Too often a parent will try to force a kid into something they hate, and it makes the child not want to exercise and damages the relationship. Find active things to do that they like. If your child hates softball, maybe they will want to learn swimming, or tai chi. Maybe they just want to jump rope in your own yard.
As long as there is daily activity, they are doing well. If they can’t choose, have a jar with activities they can do on slips of paper (freeze tag, jump rope, walk the dog, yoga with Dad, bike with Mom, etc.) and have them choose one or more each day.
Help your kids learn healthy habits now by making daily exercise fun!