Family Health – Getting Active Together
With family day quickly approaching in February in Ontario, now is a great time to invest some time and energy into getting healthy. When the entire family participates, it makes it easier for everyone to join in and stay motivated to keep going. However, for those with children, this may seem like a bit of a challenge. After all, how do you implement a workout routine for a young child?
The good news is, helping a child develop a healthy lifestyle they are excited about is not as difficult as it may seem.
Risks of Inactivity
According to the CDC almost one third of Canadians from the ages of five to 17 are overweight or obese. While the number of overweight children in Canada has not increased in the past 10 years, it is still a public health concern. Part of this issue is due to the prevalence of processed foods, which has created an environment where getting excessive calories is easy. As a child’s weight increases, so does their potential to develop serious conditions, such as diabetes and lifelong issues with weight.
In addition to easy access to bad foods, kids also don’t receive the encouragement to get up and get moving. This is where parents come in. If they fail to take these step and help their kids find ways to be healthy and active, the potential of being extremely overweight and unhealthy later in life is real.
Benefits of Regular Exercise and Activity for Kids
Physical activity offers a number of benefits for children. It helps their bones grow strong, helps them maintain a healthy weight and even helps them to discover the world around them. Even better, getting healthy can be fun. With a bit of planning and effort, parents can easily turn exercise and physical activity into games, learning experiences and fun.
It is important for all children, regardless of their age, to be active for at least an hour a day. Parents can help to encourage this activity by building it into the daily routine. For example, everyone can go on a walk with the family dog, or spend an hour outside playing soccer, baseball or some other active game.
While physical activity is essential in keeping a child’s weight down, it also helps to improve a child’s self-confidence while supporting the growth of bones and muscles.
10 Tips to get Kids Moving
The biggest challenge for many parents is simply getting started. After all, if a child is used to a certain, inactive routine, changing this can be challenging. Some tips to help parents get started include:
- Remember sports aren’t the only option. There are some kids who are simply not into organized sports, this doesn’t mean they can be active. Consider alternatives such as martial arts, swimming, rock climbing or dancing.
- Play along. When parents are involved in the activity, kids will be even more willing to participate. Take a walk or play a game of catch together. This will motivate the kids and provide the perfect bonding time.
- Limit screen time. According to experts, children should have no more than two hours of screen time each day. This includes time watching TV, playing video games or online.
- Let the child decide what they want to do. It is a good idea to let each child decide what type of activity is going to be done in the afternoon or on the weekend. Take turns so everyone is excited to participate.
- Make sure the activity is fun. Kids are easy to entertain, which means making activity fun is not extremely difficult.
- Make the activity a part of the everyday routine. Be sure that the fitness and activities planned are a part of the schedule, just like going to school, work, homework, etc.
- Set a good example. For parents that want their children to get healthier, they should show them the way. This means not sitting in front of the TV for endless periods of time and making smart options when it comes to meals and snacks.
- Provide positive feedback. When a child is out-of-shape or uncoordinated, they need to hear positive comments about the progress they are making. This will help encourage them to keep trying.
- Ask one of their friends to come along. Kids love to do things with their friends, so see if one wants to come along on a walk or to the ice-skating rink, this makes the entire experience more fun.
- Don’t give up. It can be difficult to keep with a new routine, but the key is to not give up.
Long Term Benefits of Healthy Habits
Parents are the number one source that affects the way children feel about living a healthy lifestyle. A child’s dad and mom are their heroes, role models, supporters, mentors and educators. Children assume the behaviours of their parents are completely acceptable behaviours, which is why they often mirror these later in life. If a parent constantly puts their body down and has self-image problems, this is almost a guarantee the child will at some point, as well.
Parents who put time and effort into exercising with their children are not only building a foundation for a healthy life, they are reinforcing family bonds. The long-term benefits of exercise and healthy eating are endless and go much deeper than just fighting poor health and obesity. Children who exercise on a regular basis learn how to handle stress and perform better from an academic standpoint.
The fact is, getting fit and including the kids is not something that has to be complicated or time consuming. Using fun and creative methods are usually more effective, anyway. The key is to get started and then, not stop.
Most kids don’t understand the importance of getting up and getting moving. This is why it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure this happens.