Never before have our children been more inactive or more overweight. According to Heart.Org, “Nearly 1 in 3 kids or teens in the U.S. are overweight or obese, nearly three times the number in 1963.” As a parent, one of the most important things you can do for your child’s health is to encourage them to be more active. But how? The truth is, most adults are also not as active as they were years ago. All too often, children and adults both can be found sitting on a couch staring at an electronic device.
Deciding to live a healthier lifestyle is the first step. The second step is to find simple and fun ways to keep your child (and you!) healthy and active. In honor of Child Health Day, we have come up with five sure-fire tips.
- Make it Fun. Look for activities that will be fun for both the adults and the children. Go for a regular walk after dinner. Ride your bikes to a nearby park. Play simple games such as tag or catch. Keep a box near the door that contains frisbees, balls, and jump ropes. Make it easy and natural to grab one on the way out the door. Make it a house rule to dance whenever a favorite song comes on. Your kids will remember that for the rest of their lives!
- Encourage Early Sports Involvement. If you wait too long, your children might think they “aren’t good enough” to try out for an organized sport. Start them at an early age and they will learn right along with the other children. Be sure to practice with them. Go to a nearby park and toss the football, kick the soccer ball, or dunk some baskets. You will not only burn some calories, but you will also show your child that their activities are important to you.
- Minimize Time on Electronic Devices. Minutes can quickly turn into hours when you are browsing online or playing a game. Schedule downtime for everyone. Make it a family rule at certain times of the day. This rule should apply not only to the children, but also to you. Use those OFF switches and leave the phones and ipads on the table or, better yet, hidden away in a drawer. Disconnect the electronics and connect to each other.
- Walk. Walk. Walk. Walking may be the perfect form of exercise. Almost everyone can do it and no special equipment is required. Find local destinations that are within walking distance. Walk inside of shopping malls during inclement weather. If you have a dog, take it along with you and combine dog walking and family walking time. While walking, encourage your children to tell you about their day at school. It doesn’t get much better than walking and talking with your kids.
- Involve Friends in Activities. Very often, children don’t want to participate in family activities because they would rather play with their friends. A simple solution is to invite their friends along when you go for a walk or play an active game. The more, the merrier!
So, start today. Quit reading this and go for a walk with your family. With just a little determination and planning, you can not only make a difference in the health of your entire family, but also make memories that will last a lifetime!