According to research from The Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, less than 25% of children between the ages 6 and 17 participate in an hour of daily exercise. When it comes to screen time, kids aged 5 to 8 spend over an hour just watching television each day. The consequences of physical inactivity include an increased risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Endometrial and lung cancers
- Low bone density
- Overweightness or obesity
- Type 2 diabetes
With all of the enticing technologies that await our little ones indoors, it can be challenging to get them outside and active. Some kids simply aren’t into sports. However, there are still ample opportunities for exercise. The CDC suggests that children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day.
If you’re unsure about how you can help your son or daughter reach that number, consider the following tips.
Find the Right Fit
Not everyone is inclined towards organized sports like baseball and tennis. It’s helpful to find something that your child genuinely enjoys as opposed to signing them up to a traditional sport at school. It can be in the realm of ballet, hiking, swimming or martial arts, for example.
You may need to experiment with a few different options at first. Here are some ideas:
While it certainly helps to limit your child’s time with tablets and televisions, there are several technological resources that can be useful when it comes to exercise. For instance, the Kid Power App and Kid Power Band from UNICEF are designed to help kids track and increase their step count in a gamified fashion.
There are also mobile apps such as Fitness Kids, Iron Kids and Super Stretch Yoga, which all provide child-friendly guidance on physical activity. In addition, resources like skillastics.com help families and schools with physical development via tailored lesson plans and an oversized mat where kids can exercise in groups.
Your kids observe and imitate your behavior - both good and bad. It’s no use telling them to exercise if you don’t practice what you’re preaching. When they see you being physically active and enjoying it, chances are that they will at least be curious to see what all the fuss is about.
Exercising together can also serve as valuable family time where you can bond and connect. From cycling to school, to hiking together, to simply walking around the neighborhood, there are many ways you can make it happen.
Encourage and Reward
The benefits of exercise are mostly intangible to younger children, so it’s vital that you provide positive reinforcement to keep them going. Consider creating a reward system whereby something is given in exchange for reaching certain goals. Kids may also be self-conscious about their athleticism, and therefore need all the love and support you can offer.
As a bonus tip, remember that kids are more likely to do something with a friend in tow. That’s why social activities are a great way to help them get moving. With a bit of effort and determination, they’ll be exercising soon enough.