Inevitably, spring brings with it thoughts of fitness, fresh starts, health and the looming bathing suit season. But it’s not just adults who benefit from moving more and eating better.
This month, we urge you to get your kids involved in spring fitness. Active kids are not only happier kids, they’re healthier, too. Not to mention the benefit of starting them on the path to better living – for life. To help make this the season of a fitter family, we’ve put together five simple ways to get your kids moving.
Set a good example
The best way to inject more activity in your kids’ lives is to set a good example. If your children never see you exercising or only see you in front of a laptop or BlackBerry, getting them off the couch becomes that much more difficult. So first things first: Practice what you preach. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the corner store to get milk rather than drive, take your bike to meet a friend for coffee and spend time outdoors – in the garden, walking in the neighborhood or heading to the park. The more they see you moving (rather than sitting in front of a screen), the more likely they will be to follow suit.
Make it fun
We’re conditioned to think that getting fit is a constant (boring) struggle, but the key to getting your kids to move more is to associate activity with enjoyment. Start a weekly neighborhood baseball game, take a walk to the park after dinner and play tag as a family, enroll your kids in an activity they’re interested in — dance, karate, ice hockey or swimming, to name a few — and encourage active versus passive play (e.g., a game of hide and seek versus video games). The more fun it is to get their blood pumping, the more kids will choose to move rather than sit.
Limit screen time
One of the most significant roadblocks to many kids moving more is the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. From texting and checking Facebook to computers, PlayStations and Xboxes, there’s barely time to do homework and eat, let alone exercise. In order to help make fitness a part of your kids’ lives, limit their screen time. Implement times where they absolutely cannot be watching TV, playing video games or staring at their phones. With no buttons to press or controllers to use, they’ll be hard-pressed not to want to head outside or do something to get off the couch.
Build it in to their routine
Kids thrive on routine – get up, go to school, have lunch, come home, do homework, have dinner, etc. If your children are younger (teens like to create their own routines), simply build activity into their daily schedule, whether it’s through a class you enroll them in or something you do as a family. Perhaps a post-homework walk, playing basketball in the driveway before dinner or taking the dog for an extra-long walk after school. Once movement is ingrained in their daily routine, it becomes a lot easier to ensure kids embrace fitness as they grow up.
Embrace the outdoors
Spring is the perfect time to move more because the weather is warming up, the sun is shining and being outside is much more fun than sitting in a stuffy apartment. Use the new season as an excuse to get outside as much as possible and encourage your kids to do the same. Get their bikes tuned up, take all the outdoor toys and sports equipment out of storage (and put it to good use) and take advantage of any green space you have in your area, from parks to conservation areas.
The more you can make fitness a part of your children’s lives now, the more likely they are to embrace an active lifestyle into adulthood.