American children are growing more obese each decade. In fact, all of Americans are growing more obese each decade. The problem isn’t limited to the children. However, it is as children that we learn to eat correctly, get the right amount of exercise and place a high value on our health.
For good health, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. The time doesn’t have to happen in one sitting or be involved in just one activity. For instance the total can include activities in sports, dance, martial arts, biking, running, swimming, basketball, football, soccer, walking or even active chores like raking leaves, vacuuming and dusting.
In addition to activities that are cardiovascular children should also participate in exercises which strengthen their muscles and bones twice a week such as push-ups, gymnastics, or playing on the jungle gym or other playground equipment.
Children can put 60 minutes of exercise together in shorter 10-20 minute segments of walking, bike riding, jumping rope or playing tag. Parents play an important role in helping children to become active. And, most of that role is played by becoming active themselves. Children are more apt to learn from watching than from what others tell them to do.
It’s important for children to be active because it promotes healthy bones, muscles and joints. The habits that are started at a young age will be carried into adulthood. This exercise will help to build endurance and muscle strength making it easier for the body to maintain a healthy weight, increase energy, foster self-esteem and improve sleep habits.
Learning exercise at an early age will also help to ward off chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers. The habits they learn now will lay the groundwork for a lifetime of good health.
Parents can help children to be more active by encouraging activity throughout their lives by encouraging activity in everyday ways. For example, parents can encourage their children to do errands that keep them walking through the store, sweeping the sidewalk, helping to clean out the garage or basement; raking leaves, mowing lawns and shoveling snow can all be used to make money as well.
Parents can also support their children to become more active by helping them become involved in sports and offering to help them practice or encouraging them to show their newest moves or techniques. Parents can become involved by providing or arranging transportation to games and activities and attending to cheer them on.
But playing sports or attending classes isn’t a requirement for active kids. Many children will enjoy less structured activities and will be active enough if they are doing something for at least 60 minutes most days each week. Work with the child to find an activity or activities they enjoy. This can also mean shooting basketball with them or encouraging them and their friends to go outside and play instead of being plastered in front of the computer games or television.
Many kids are turned off by the thought of exercise because they picture it as time being bored or sweaty. Parents can help by taking the word ‘exercise’ out of the vocabulary and approaching the activity in terms of fun or play instead.
KidsHealth: Motivating Kids to Be Active
National Heat Lung and Blood Institute: Get Active
NHS CHoice: 10 Ways to get Active with Your Kids
PBS Parents: Motivating Kids to Get Fit
Healthy Kids: Being Active
Better Health Channel: Children Getting Them Active