There was a time when kids raced each other on their bikes, ran around, climbed trees and kicked a ball around. Nowadays they are more likely to be using a joystick to control a football game character than actually get up and play the game for real. There is much debate about the reasons for this, but whilst blame is apportioned to parents, schools or even society as a whole, it doesn’t stop kids getting less and less exercise.
Kids Learn by Example
Whilst it is certainly untrue to say that parents are completely responsible for the sedentary lifestyles of their children – often financial constraints equal long working hours for one or both parents – there is plenty you can do as a parent to help your kids get active.
If children see you being active, they will often want to join in. You can kill two birds with one stone by setting aside some time for family physical activity, giving you quality time with each other and better fitness too. It can even help if you are having trouble seeing eye to eye with a teen. A 30 minute bike ride can take you both out of the house and maybe give you an opportunity to talk about something other than how much you are annoying each other.
It goes without saying that any activity your children do needs to be recognised and encouraged. A powerful tool for this is to talk about activity in terms of looking after your body rather than a “have to do” chore. Perhaps your children can be encouraged to take up a competitive sport in which progress can be monitored by setting goals.
Tennis is one such example. Once you have taken the time to decide which of the various tennis court surfaces you prefer, this can be a great game to play with your children. Children should be active for at least an hour a day and this should include some bone or muscle strength training (though do avoid weights) at least three days per week. This may sound like a lot, but not all activities need to be made into major events.
Perhaps one of the best ways to achieve this is to limit time spent using technology. Computers and televisions ought to be used no more than two hours a day. Also, it is probably not a good idea for kids to use technology close to bedtime, as doing so can disrupt sleep.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Almost all children respond well to routine. They like to know what they are doing and when. Routine is also great for strengthening parent-child relations. This may seem a little far-fetched, but if your children have had a bedtime routine all their lives, it is a lot more difficult for an older child to argue about it.
Similarly, if you set aside some time to be active every day from an early age, it won’t be anything you or the children will feel is a chore; it will just be part of your family routine. It is worth mentioning that you should tailor the activity to the age of the child; for example, a long hike is not something a 4-year-old would be able to do, but switching on his favourite songs and dancing around the living room is something you can both do.