Now more than ever before Children need to exercise more.
Why? Because childhood obesity has become a great concern over the past decade. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health in December 2019, roughly 17% of children in the United States present with obesity.
That’s a staggering number.
Note that the study was completed prior to the pandemic and the lockdowns that followed.
Youth sports were canceled, parks were closed, kids were kept inside with no real physical outlets. You can’t help but imagine that the obesity rates increased over the past 18 months. Fortunately, many places are opened back up, at least to the point where kids can get out and play again.
But what about those kids who either A) have become used to being inside on their computer all the time or B) never really liked exercise to begin with? What can you do to get your kids to enjoy exercise?
The answer to that truly depends on what age we’re talking about. To truly engage them, what might work for a 7-year-old may not be effective for a 12-year-old. But there are a few things you can do that can help you at least get started.
Make it social.
Kids have probably missed their friends over the past few months. Find activities that allow them to hang out with other kids while participating in an activity. It doesn’t have to be a playdate at the park. Even taking teens to walk around a mall (do they still do that?) counts as exercise.
With so many places shut down for so long, parks and other community spaces were often neglected. Check-in your community to see if there are any volunteer efforts being made that you and your kids can participate in.
What better way for them to get exercise than to be a part of cleaning up a place where they play? It’s a little lesson in helping the community as a bonus!
Involve the family.
Go for family walks in the evening. Have a family meeting and decide on an activity that everyone can participate in. Better yet, allow each person to pick an activity that everyone can do, and rotate through the family so everyone gets a pick.
Places that were closed are trying to reopen and recoup some of the losses they have suffered. As a result, many are offering family discount packages. Look online at local amusement parks (remember, walking counts as exercise), regional parks with attractions like lakes and water toys, and other areas like those for family discount days or bundles.
Are your kids naturally competitive with each other? Create scoreboards or “rankings” to encourage friendly challenges for them. You can decide how to evaluate the challenges. Hours spent outside, moving around, playing, etc.
If you’re a fitness-minded family, track workouts or activities (dance, soccer practice, etc.). Just be careful not to put emphasis on pounds lost or calories burned. I know that should be obvious when dealing with kids, but it is easy to get carried away.
If you have a child who is more sedentary and others who have lots of activities, encourage the non-active one to find something (anything) to get moving. For example, they always need someone to collect the balls at soccer practices.
Did you know that an adult can burn up to 190 calories doing housework like scrubbing, sweeping, and vacuuming? What better way to get your kids active than to put them to work!
Above ANYthing else, make sure that being active is fun. As long as they’re having a good time, kids won’t think twice about what they’re actually doing.
Remember those family bundles I mentioned above? Consider miniature golf courses, zoos, water parks – anything that involves walking, running, or some kind of activity.
Moms and Dads can be sooooo boring and mean!
Show your kids your goofy side. Put on music they like and have a dance party. Or, for even more silliness, go retro. Play the music from “back in the day” and teach them the dance moves.
Heck, do a “History of Dance” (like Jimmy Fallon and J Lo) but go waaay back: start with the Charleston, move to the Twist, Disco, through the 80s (Running Man and Cabbage Patch) to now. They’ll be so busy laughing they won’t even realize they’re exercising 😉
Remember that the goal is to get kids active any way you can. Trying to limit screen time could work, but many kids will see that as a punishment rather than as a good thing.
Encouraging outdoor activities, finding things the whole family can enjoy, using natural interests, and having fun can all add up to healthy, happier kids.
Now go find next weekend’s activity!
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