With rates of childhood obesity at epidemic levels, there has been a greater push to get children to eat healthier and be more active. Diet is an important part of raising healthy children, but so is exercise. Unfortunately, many areas of the country have had their educational budgets cut to the point where physical education programs are being sharply reduced or even eliminated. Many schools are also shortening recess periods in an effort to increase instruction time. Combine these developments with the fact that many kids get little or no physical activity at home, and it’s easy to see why exercise has become a focus in the effort to curb childhood obesity rates.
Frances Berg, an expert in childhood obesity, says “Because young children naturally move around a lot, many people assume they are getting all the physical activity they need. But today TV and videos often keep them still for longer periods than parents realize.” And any parent knows how difficult it can be to tear kids away from the TV or computer. The trick is to make the alternatives interesting for them. Berg says, “Physical activity should be a fun part of daily life and never forced. If children begin to associate being active with having fun, they're more likely to stay active as they grow up.” Following are a few tips for raising more active kids.
- Limit electronics– Time sitting in front of the TV or computer should be limited. Children should spend no more than an hour or two of each day with these devices. One way of keeping them active while playing a video game is to invest in a Wii, which at least gets them up and moving.
- Start a garden – Gardening is very active work, and kids love to watch the seeds they planted grow.
- Walk or bike to school – It’s a great way of getting exercise at least twice a day, and you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic! It’s also a good time to hear about your child’s concerns or talk about how their day went.
- Wash the car together – Kids love playing around with water and suds, and in the end you’ll have a clean car too.
- Take a hike – Pack a healthy picnic lunch and go for a hike with your kids. You can make it more interesting for them by having them be on the lookout for certain birds or animals as you hike.
- Dance around the house – Put some music on while preparing dinner and dance around the kitchen with your kids.
- Throw a ball or Frisbee – Not only will it provide fun exercise, it will build eye-hand coordination as well.
- Set a good example – Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park far from the entrance to a store, etc. This will get your kids in the habit of being more active.
Encouraging your children to be more active will help to burn off the excess energy they have, making them happier and more able to focus during quiet times. It will also help them build healthier lifestyle habits for the future!