We want to do whatever we can to give our kids an opportunity to have a healthy, productive life. We save for their college educations. We take them for regular doctor appointments. We try to make sure they eat the right foods.
But what about exercise?
Not only are kids who exercise regularly less likely to become overweight, they also have less of a risk of developing type 2 diabetes and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than kids who are inactive. In addition, studies show that they sleep better and handle physical and emotional stress more easily.
Whether you are a mom, a grandma, or a caretaker, here’s something to consider: the exercise habits that kids form when they are young will likely be the ones they’ll carry with them into adulthood.
Five Ways to Get Your Kids Exercising
- Limit TV. Any mom or grandma knows that TV can make kids sluggish and cranky. So turn the screen off. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids under the age of 6 watch an average of 2 hours of TV a day, while kids and teens from 8 – 18 years spend almost 4 hours a day watching TV and almost 2 additional hours playing video games or spending time on the computer. Set limits on the amount of TV time allowed in your house. Find what works for your family and create a schedule for no TV on weekdays or weekends. The time freed up will open doors for other activities and a change of scenery can go a long way in turning that sluggishness around.
- Get up and out. If your kids or grandkids are young, be intentional about taking them outside regularly. Take advantage of local parks and nature trails. Climbing on a play set and swinging from the monkey bars can be great exercise for young kids. If yours are older, plan a hike and have them invite a friend. Or get them a new football or Frisbee and toss the first throw. Find out what sports or activities your kids enjoy and sign them up. Look into your city’s Parks and Recreation department and see what classes or teams are offered. Have your kids try a variety of activities until they find one or two that they love.
- Drive less. Is your kids’ or grandkids’ school within walking distance? What about their friend’s houses? If you have young children, walk with them instead of driving. Leave the stroller at home, and leave the house early so you have time to stop and let them look at bugs or smell the flowers without being late. If your kids are older, add something they might consider fun. Walk to the movie rental store and let them pick out the movie or video game. Ride bikes to soccer practice and have them lead the way. They may not be enthused about the idea at first, but your example can be contagious. And it’s good for the environment too.
- Make it fun. Create opportunities for exercise to be fun. Come up with a contest and join in. Who can do the most pushups in a minute? Who can swim the fastest lap in the pool? Race your kids to the mailbox. Or have them race each other. My kids love it when I judge their cannon balls, rating them from 1 to 10. They’ll keep jumping in and out of the pool until I tell them to stop. When kids are focused on a goal or trying to win, especially if they’re trying to beat their parents, exercise can be twice as fun.
- Set an example. Maybe the most important thing we can do to encourage our kids to be active is to be active in our own lives. Make exercise a priority, even if you can only fit a ten minute walk or a thirty minute exercise video into your day. It will go a long way in reducing the stress that often comes with parenting. And don’t go overboard or burn yourself out. Our kids pick up on our attitudes, so simply make exercise a positive part of your routine. Invite your kids to go bike riding or play tennis. Bring them to the gym with you. Go for an evening walk. Kids learn more from what we do than what we say, and a child who grows up seeing his or her mom or dad living actively will most likely follow in those footsteps. Or should I say running shoes?