How to encourage kids to be more physically active
When today's parents reflect on their childhood, many likely recall seemingly endless days spent playing outdoors. But when today's kids become tomorrow's parents, chances are their recollections won't recall nearly as much time spent idling the days away under the sun.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 17 percent of American children and adolescents between the ages of 2 to 19 are obese. In Canada, where self-reporting data collection methods have made such statistics more difficult to quantify, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children is also on the rise, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey.
The rise in overweight or obese children is likely a byproduct of several factors, not the least of which is that many of today's kids prefer to play a video game on the couch instead of going outdoors and being physically active. The potential ramifications of youngsters choosing a more sedentary lifestyle are dangerous, as it increases their risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, respiratory ailments and joint problems, among other things. What's more, numerous studies have found that obese or overweight children are more likely to become obese or overweight adults, which highlights the importance of embracing a physically active lifestyle as a youngster.
Parents know it's not always easy to get kids to be more physically active. But the following are a few tips parents might find useful when encouraging their kids to embrace a more active lifestyle.
1. Give toys that encourage physical activity. Kids love toys, and their toys will often dictate how they spend their days. Instead of buying the latest video game console, give kids toys that encourage them to be active. This can include balls, bicycles, jump ropes, or even a backyard swingset. Kids who embrace these activities at a young age are more likely to continue doing so into adolescence and adulthood.
2. Reduce time spent in front of the television. Parents who can effectively minimize the amount of time their child spends in front of the television, whether reducing their time spent watching television or playing video games, will likely be more successful at instilling a love of physical activity as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents limit their child's time in front of the television to one to two hours per day, and that includes the time children spend playing video games. To further reduce kids' time watching TV, don't allow televisions in their bedrooms, as that will only make it harder to monitor just how much time kids are spending in front of their TVs.
3. Remember that physical activity should be fun. Not all kids are athletic, and some will likely bemoan participating in recreational sports leagues. But that doesn't mean parents should give up on encouraging physical activity. Instead, find a physical activity that your child finds fun and encourage his or her participation. This might be nontraditional kids' sports like cycling or jogging or activities like dancing, hiking or even bird watching. Once a child exhibits a healthy interest in a physical activity that you have deemed safe, encourage it.
4. Set a positive example. Kids, especially younger children, look up to their parents and often try to emulate what mom and dad are doing. Parents can make the most of that adoration by setting a positive example and being physically active themselves. Go for a nightly bike ride or a walk around the neighborhood with your youngsters in tow. Or put that elliptical machine in the basement to good use. Whatever physical activity you choose, you can bet your children will express an interest in it as well, and that's a great way to make them more enthusiastic about having a healthy and active lifestyle.