With the obesity rates in the US on an ever steady incline, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your children are getting enough exercise. Even if your child is far from obese, regular exercise will help keep them healthy overall as well as instill healthy habits for the rest of their lives.
Children spend way too much time watching television, playing video games, or sitting in front of the computer; not only are these habits unhealthy, they can actually have negative effects on their development and perceptions. Parents who are concerned about their children having bad influences, aggression issues, or other developmental problems need do nothing more than turn off the electronics and send the kids out to play.
It used to be that children lived and breathed for running around outside, but today’s technology-driven world has definitely changed things a bit. Children need to be children; that means playing in the dirt, skinning their knees, and wearing themselves out. It’s time to teach our children that exercise and fun are completely synonymous terms.
Turn it Off
The very first and most crucial step that must be taken in order to help your child get more exercise is to turn off and unplug. Many parents find that having set times for television, video games, and computers makes this a much easier task. Your child should understand that these things are a privilege and not something that they can spend all of their time doing.
Limit time spent in front of the television to a minimum and encourage your child to do other things instead. Change the mentality; make activities that involve exercise become a reward and the television may soon be forgotten.
Lead by Example
Talking to your child about why exercise is so important will have very little effect if they see you spending all of your time on the sofa. Like most things, the only way that your child will learn how important exercise really is, is if they see how important it is to you.
If you are telling your child to turn off the television and go do something more active, the last thing you want to do is plop down in the same spot they had been sitting in. Go and do some things as well, because if you don’t practice what you preach, your child is not going to listen for very long.
Make it a Family Event
Family time does not always have to consist of going out to eat or sitting down playing board games. What better way to teach your child about exercise than to do it together as a family? Not only is it more fun for your child, but it allows you to teach by example as previously mentioned as well as giving your family some much needed time together.
Have set days or times that you all get together and do something active; this could be anything from playing catch in the backyard to going to a community swimming pool. So long as you are all together and moving, it counts!
Make it Fun
The second that exercise becomes a chore, children will fight you tooth and nail to avoid it. You may want to eliminate the word “exercise” all together and simply encourage your children to “play.” The word “play” implies fun in and of itself and it doesn’t sound like another item on a chore chart.
Keep in mind that getting your children to exercise does not mean taking them to the gym or enrolling them in an aerobics class. The key is just to get them moving; to show them that there are fun things to do that don’t involve a remote control or a joystick.
Take your children to a swimming pool or park and let them run wild. Go for a bike ride or even just a walk and play games like “I Spy,” to make it more fun. Find mountain trails to explore or spend a day walking around at the zoo. Playing in the backyard, being enrolled in a sports team, jumping on a trampoline; the options are really endless for a child once you get them off the couch.
You can turn just about anything into a game that gets your kids moving; exercise doesn’t always have to be about breaking a sweat; just moving will do wonders. Plan a scavenger hunt around your house and time your child as they rush about looking for clues. “Let’s see how fast you can…” works with just about anything and gets your child to move a little faster.
Simply telling your child to “Go outside and play,” probably won’t have much of an effect. Provide them with plenty of things to do and give them options. Use “exercise” as a reward by having your child earn things like jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, balls, outdoor games, and anything else that gets them moving. If they have things to do, especially things that they really enjoy, they will want to get up and exercise, which is really every parents’ goal.