As part of a healthy lifestyle, physical activity is important for long term health and quality of life. For kids, physical activity is crucial for preventing childhood obesity and the chronic diseases that can be associated with overweight and obesity such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and sleep apnea. In addition, research shows that when children are fit and receive the proper amount of exercise, they perform better in school and are able to learn at a higher level. The CDC recommends that kids and teens need at least 60 minutes every day of moderate intensity aerobic activity – or anything that gets their heart beating faster.
Children must be given the opportunity to be physically active throughout the day and it must be made a priority in order for them to make it a life long healthy habit. The following are tips to encourage physical activity for not only your children, but your whole family.
- Make exercise a family habit – By involving the whole family, your children see that everyone is participating and having fun. The whole family is getting the benefit of physical fitness also. You can walk or bike to school together, take a family walk around the neighborhood each night after dinner, or play music and dance your way through family chores together.
- Set family fitness goals – Goals help with motivation, so post goals on the refrigerator along with a way to track everyone’s progress. Training together for a charity walk to run, or getting pedometers and have a content to see who takes the most steps in a given week can help foster food camaraderie between family members as well.
- Exchange screen time for active time – Limit sedentary screen time using computer, tablets, video games, and TV to no more than 2 hours each day. Encourage your kids to sign up for some form of physical activity like camps, sports, or even friendly neighborhood competitions.
- Activity doesn’t have to be organized – Enjoying things like gardening/landscaping, walking the dogs, or cleaning the house can be good ways to incorporate physical activity without it being an organized activity.
To encourage your kids to incorporate physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day can be challenging from time to time. To make it easier, ensure that you are providing the opportunity for them to choose what they want to do and make each activity fun and light-hearted – don’t pressure them to much to do something they really don’t want to do. Encouraging good physical activity habits early can help kids grow up strong and healthy.