As a mom in the new millennium, I dream about the idea of parenting in a world where streets are safe and parents can let their children run freely through the neighborhood, their bodies naturally challenged with the exercise of play.
Instead today, before the slam of the car door fades and the backpack drops on the floor, the TV is switched on and the last few hours of daylight disappear in a haze of video games and over processed snack foods.
Even the concerned, well-meaning parent can often stand helpless, wondering how to compete against marketing genius and instant gratification. Exercise and carrot sticks have a hard time competing with Xboxes, SpongeBob and potato chips.
The proof is all around us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health of too many North Americans is in danger because of unhealthy lifestyles. (www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity)
The latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that 30 percent of U.S. adults 20 years of age and older – over 60 million people – are obese. The CDC reports the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980.
My kids aren’t obese – why should I be concerned?
Your kids are normal, right? You are parenting just fine. But in a world where walking is limited, school P.E. programs are being cut, and cars, elevators and buses eliminate our chance to exercise naturally, we need to make a concerted effort to make physical activity part of our day and our children’s days.
Despite all the benefits of being physically active, most Americans are sedentary, and inactive children are likely to become inactive adults.
So as parents how can we get our kids moving?
“The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.”
The great news is exercise comes in many forms and can be a lot of fun! With a little creativity you can easily add some fun physical activity into your parenting style.
1. Lead the way
You need to set a good example. Kids, especially younger children, naturally follow their parents. So make sure you are looking after your own health and making physical activity a priority in your life.
2. Do it together
In today’s overscheduled world, we need to make sure we are spending quality time with our children. What better way than to be active together. Since kids can’t be alone roaming the neighborhood, parents need to play with them.
3. Make it fun
Put on some music and dance. Play tag. Roller blade. Basically just play. Provide them with toys and equipment that encourage them to be active while having fun.
Bikes, scooters, hockey sticks and baseball bats will get your kids moving and active. For preschool children, ride on toys that get them exercising like pedal cars, big wheels and tricycles are always a great parenting decision.
4. Cheer them on
Create positive reinforcements with encouragement and support. Help them find sports and activities that build their self esteem. Attend their sporting events and let them know you are their biggest fan whether they win or lose.
5. Turn it off
Of course, we need to limit the time our kids watch TV and play video games. But make sure you do it in a positive way. If they are angry that you just turned off their favorite show, they might not be too excited about going out rollerblading with you.
Allow screen time during designated hours, preferably after homework is done and when physical activity is finished, like in the evening or on Saturday morning when tired parents might need to catch a few extra minutes of sleep.
Adding more physical activity into your family’s routine will help you all feel better and get you having more fun together. Most importantly, as you model a healthy lifestyle you will help instill in your children lifelong habits and healthy attitudes toward exercise and physical activity.