Over the past 30 years, the percentage of overweight kids has more than doubled. The primary reason is lack of physical activity — TV, video games and busy schedules have reduced the time available for active play. On average, children spend three hours daily watching TV and over five hours on all media. So, how do you encourage kids to exercise? Try the following tips:
Set a good example. Engage in physical activity yourself, and seize opportunities to play with your kids. Even a quick, 10-minute game of “Tag” or “Follow the Leader” offers fitness benefits.
Take advantage of the television. Find an activity that uses TV or video games, or that simulates a video game that your child enjoys. Get a video game with a dance pad or try a DVD that teaches cheers or dances. Suggest laser tag instead of playing a war game.
Use household chores. Give children chores that can also offer the benefits of exercise. Hard work, washing the car and even vacuuming the house are all physical activities. Spice it up by racing to complete chores or make a game out of them.
Make exercise a family activity. Schedule family walks, a weekly swimming or bowling night or plan a hiking trip. This promotes family togetherness as well as fitness.
Set the stage for success. Help you child to find the right sport or fitness activity, and encourage him or her to stick with it. For kids who hate team sports, suggest swimming, walking, running or find another activity, such as martial arts or ballet. Encourage your child to strive for a personal best, rather than compete against other children.
Make it fun. For kids, exercise is about play. It is important, especially for younger kids, that fitness activities not be overly structured. Pushing children too hard and too fast can cause them to shy away from exercise.
One final thought. By encouraging your kids to exercise and being a role model, you set the foundation for a lifetime of health benefits, including reduced risk of becoming overweight and developing diabetes.