One in five children in the U.S. has obesity, which can cause long-term affects including chronic health conditions, increased risks of being bullied, and lowered self-esteem. Experts recommend that young people exercise for at least one hour per day to reduce the risks of childhood obesity. Here are five strategies parents can use to encourage physical fitness in their kids.
- Set a Good Example of Healthy Living
Kids are shrewd critics, especially when parents don’t practice what they preach. Be a role model for your kids by practicing good fitness habits every day.
Set the standard at home with the following actions:
- Cut down on snack foods and sodas
- Serve more fruits and vegetables
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise at least one hour per day
It’s never too late for an adult to become physically fit, so vow to join your kids in making healthier choices. The whole family benefits when each member is working toward wellness.
- Schedule Definite Times for Fitness
Exercise is seldom a spur-of-the-moment choice for most people. Adults and kids in your home may prefer to watch a TV show, play a video game, or use their phones than go out for a jog.
Don’t leave exercise to chance or sudden impulses. Schedule a definite time each day for physical activity whenever possible. After following a routine schedule of exercise, you and your child should discover that the daily physical fitness period becomes a habit.
The physical activity you choose doesn’t have to be rigorous or painful. If you or your child are out-of-shape, begin with short, slow walks around the neighborhood. Bring the dog along to keep your child active and attentive. One recent study on obesity showed that dog owners had more fun with their weight loss programs than people who didn’t own dogs.
Other activity ideas for daily exercise sessions include:
- Bike, swim, or skate
- Stretch and exercise in the backyard
- Play catch, badminton, or volleyball
- Take a yoga course together
- Visit the gym or YMCA together
On rainy days, walk up and down the staircase to increase leg strength. Engage the family in tackling heavy chores like mopping, rearranging furniture, and window-washing.
The specific exercises you perform are not as important as getting up and moving your body every day. Washing windows strengthens your arms. Walking the dog builds endurance in the legs, heart, and lungs. All physical activities burn calories and can help keep weight in check.
- Seek Your Child’s Input
Some adults overeat when they’re sad, depressed, or angry. Kids may stress-eat, too, especially if they feel out of control or shamed. Use your new family fitness goals as a starting place to open up the lines of communication with your child.
Rather than demanding that your child follow a strict new menu and exercise regimen, seek your child’s input and ideas about changing bad family habits. Be honest, and admit that you don’t always make the best choices, but you’d like to start making better ones. Enlist your child’s help when making healthy shopping lists and choosing fitness activities.
Engage your child by including them in the family fitness plans in the following ways:
- Discuss their fitness goals (and yours) in a positive, open-minded manner.
- Ask your child to choose the daily walk or exercise time.
- Let your child develop a family obstacle course or other challenge.
- Encourage your child to make up silly names for exercises.
When your child feels like they are part of the decision-making process, they may be more likely to enthusiastically join the family fitness upgrade.
- Spark Involvement Using Your Child’s Interests
If your child loves a certain musician or genre of music, host energetic weekly dance parties, and play their favorite songs. Buy a disco ball or decorate your patio to make the activity welcoming and fun.
If your child loves a specific vegetable, dig and plant a garden together. If your child adores nature, schedule weekly hikes at local preserves and wildlife-viewing areas.
Aviation-loving kids enjoy long walks around the airport. Animal-loving kids enjoy visiting local farms and zoos. Sports fanatics enjoy tossing the football or practicing their batting form in the backyard.
Be sure to ask for your child’s input on new activities that relate to their hobbies. You may be happily surprised at the ways they guide you toward new exercise opportunities.
- Share Your Beloved Childhood Games
Did you play kickball or lacrosse as a kid? Were you the backyard pond hockey star? Teach your favorite childhood games to your own child for some intergenerational physical exertion.
Even simple games like hide-and-go-seek, jumping rope, and flag tag increase physical fitness. You don’t need expensive running shoes or complex endurance routines to stay active and healthy as a family. The only requirements necessary for a successful family exercise plan are a commitment to wellness and a willingness to relax and enjoy yourselves to the fullest.
Calculate your body mass index here. To learn more about fitness, Stellis Health pediatricians can help develop your child’s wellness/fitness plan and our orthopedic and sports medicine experts are available to help treat and prevent sports and exercise-related injuries. Our offices are conveniently located in Buffalo, Monticello, and Albertville, offering professional, caring medical services for all ages in and around Wright County Minnesota.