Do you remember marveling at the energy your kids had when they were toddlers and seemingly always in motion? Years later, are you now dealing with children and teens who would rather sit at the computer or play video games instead of move at all? The sedentary tendencies of our kids is resulting in a rise in childhood obesity and chronic weight-related diseases that were once considered medical conditions for adults. Our responsibilty as parents is to get our kids off the couch and exercising so they don’t end up with life-long weight and health problems. Sure, they may be reluctant to ‘exercise’ but you can sneak it into their daily routine without them even knowing they are doing bona fide physical activity. Here’s how.
Make physical activity fun
The key to getting your kids to move is to make it enjoyable. Rally younger children to play games like hopscotch, tag, hide and seek, or dodge ball (with a soft or foam ball). For the older kids, challenge them to a game of frisbee, hula hoop, miniature golf, or even a jump rope or water balloon contest. Most kids can’t wait to best mom and dad at a sport or contest, not realizing that they are, indeed, exercising. Further, your involvement is an integral component of instilling healthy values in your kids; they see you having a good time and will want to mirror it.
Encourage functional exercise
Functional exercise in this context is physical activity that accomplishes a task. As a family, you can walk the dog, ride bikes to the post office or grocery store, plant a garden, do yardwork, hand wash the car, and clean the house. Doing these activities together will not only get the whole family moving, it gives you the opportunity to work towards common goals that benefit everyone in the family.
Play tourist in your own town
If visitors to your locale are getting more exercise than you while they take in the sights, it’s time for your family to experience your community’s cultural scene. Put on your walking shoes and visit the local museum, zoo, aquarium or amusement park.
It’s easy for kids to glue themselves to the computer when they are indoors. However, fresh air and a change of scenery can motivate them to be more active. Go beyond your backyard and take the kids to the boardwalk, beach, park, hiking trail, farmers’ market and even local farms that offer pick-your-own produce. The great outdoors can breathe new life into your kids; you might be surprised at the energy they have while running on the beach, trekking up a hill or getting their hands in the dirt.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em
Instead of grounding your kids off the computer, a more effective alternative may be for you to buy them a video game that requires they move more than just their fingers. The Nintendo Wii – namely Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports – has a variety of exercise-oriented games, including bowling, boxing, basketball, tennis, skateboarding, and more. Family members can compete against each other or simply try to better their own scores. Computer simulated activities are not as rigorous as getting real-life action, but they are certainly a convenient – and sly – way to get your kids to exercise.
The more your kids exercise, the lower their risk of becoming overweight and developing chronic weight-related diseases. Join them in daily physical activity, whether it is intentional or not, and you’ll improve your own health while setting a positive example for your kids. Look at it this way: The family that exercises together, stays happy and healthy together.