These days, kids are more sedentary than ever before. In fact, most kids spend between six and eight hours a day sitting, and very few are actually getting the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity that the government recommends.
Regular physical activity isn’t just about looking good. Research shows that the more sedentary kids are, the more likely they are to suffer from weight-related health problems like cancer and diabetes as they age. Kids who are sedentary are also more likely to experience mood swings, psychological distress, and poor brain function.
If you’re a parent, it’s imperative that you encourage your children to be more active, for both their present and future health.
Helping Your kids Stay Active: Tips for Parents
Listed below are ten simple steps parents can take to help their kids stay active throughout the day.
1. Break Activity Up Into Smaller Chunks
For a child who’s been sedentary for a long time, going straight into 60 minutes of exercise a day might seem like a lot.
Instead of sending your kids out to run around for a whole hour, try breaking up their activity into smaller chunks. For example, have them ride bikes for 20 minutes after school, then end the day with a game of soccer or a long walk.
2. Get Active with Them
As a parent, it’s your job to set an example. If you want your kids to be more active, you need to make sure you’re being active as well. Go for bike rides or walks with them, or get out in the backyard and teach them how to kick a soccer ball or shoot a basket. You get more quality time with your kids, and they get the exercise they need to stay healthy.
3. Set Limits on Screen Time
Most kids spend way too much time staring at a screen. Set limits on how long they’re allowed to watch TV or play video games and stick to those limits. Your kids will probably resist at first, but explain to them that you’re putting these rules in place for a reason. After a while, they will accept that this is the way things are.
4. Find Activities They Actually Enjoy
It’s hard for kids to want to stay active if they don’t enjoy the activity you’ve got them doing. If your child hates soccer, encourage them to find a sport or activity that they like more. There are so many ways to be active, they’re bound to find at least one that they like.
5. Know Some Basic First Aid
Some parents are hesitant to encourage their kids to play sports or be active because they’re worried about their child getting hurt.
Learning some basic first aid — wound care, being able to spot different types of ankle sprains, splinting, bandaging, etc. — can help you feel confident in sending your child out to play more frequently.
6. Create a Safe Environment
Another way to prevent injuries and minimize worry when sending your child out to be more active is to ensure they have a safe place to play. Find a local park or playground that is clean and well-cared for, or clean up your backyard to make it more kid-friendly.
You should also take a look at their equipment and make sure it’s in good condition and the right size for someone their age. Their clothing should be comfortable and activity-appropriate, too.
7. Invest in Active Toys
If all your kids have to play with are video games, that’s all they’re going to want to do. To get your kids off the couch and out in the fresh air, consider investing in more active toys like balls, bikes, and jump ropes instead of the latest gaming console.
8. Give Them a Reason
Make sure your kids know why you’re encouraging them to exercise more. Let them know that getting regular exercise isn’t about being a certain weight, it’s about being healthy and strong. Depending on their age, you may want to talk to them a bit about the ramifications of living a sedentary lifestyle to help them see why exercise is so important.
9. Don’t Overschedule Them
Don’t bog your kids down with so many lessons and extracurriculars that they don’t have time to exercise. Make sure that there are ways to fit movement into their day, even if it’s by breaking the exercise down into chunks as was mentioned in the first tip.
10. Make it Fun
Finally, make sure that exercise is fun. Play games, set goals, get everyone involved. It shouldn’t feel like a chore, otherwise, your kids will definitely find a way to get around it. It may take some experimentation at first, but, over time, you’ll be able to make physical activity something they can look forward to.
If your child isn’t getting enough physical activity, remember that it’s never too late to try and turn things around. Give these ten simple tips a try today, and, before you know it, your kids will be moving more than ever before.