Fitness for the Whole Family – Developing Healthy Habits for Your Children
Having a healthy and fit life starts with forming positive habits that become part of yours and your family’s daily routine. With childhood obesity rates continuing to rise, forming these habits at a young age are more important than ever. If your child is older, it is never too late to start these healthy habits, especially if you do it together as a family.
Facts and Figures:
• According to the CDC, the current prevalence of childhood obesity in kids 2-19 years of age is about 18.5% or roughly 1 in 5 kids, and this figure is expected to continue increasing.
• Obese adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming obese adults.
• Some of the most common health issues related directly to obesity include: Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
• Exercise has been repeatedly linked to overall happiness and well-being. This is especially important for your children’s emotional wellness as they continue to grow.
Tips for getting kids to exercise:
1. Choose an activity to do as a family.
Making exercise a part of normal daily life for children helps to instill long-term habits for later in life, creating a routine of healthy living from a very young age. Participating in an activity with your children can help you bond as a family and create an outlet for your kids to release some energy, making time at home more productive (and maybe even a little quieter!). If you prefer to exercise in a more structured way yourself, look for a gym or fitness studio with options for childcare as they often provide equipment that allows kids to play and exercise while you get your workout done.
Here are some ideas for fun family activities that will get everyone moving together:
• Go for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner.
• Go to a local park and explore some trails.
• Go for a family bike ride.
• Play a family game of “capture the flag” or touch football.
2. Choose activities that are age-appropriate.
A long run or weight lifting may not be a good option for young children but getting kids involved in sports or activities with their peers can help kids stay active while socializing and having fun. Allowing kids to be involved in activities that are age appropriate also helps to foster self-confidence in children, allowing kids to explore things they enjoy and find things at which they are good.
Encourage your kids to try a new unfamiliar activity like yoga or gymnastics – exposure to a wide variety of activities at a young age can help your kids develop into more well-rounded individuals and allow them to find their own ways to cope with stressors later in life.
Here are some age-appropriate activities to incorporate exercise into the daily life of your child and family:
• Ages 1-4: Playing on a playground, pushing a toy around the house or yard, going to a kids’ play gym, jumping on a mini trampoline, dancing to music at home.
• Ages 4-8: Riding a bike around the neighborhood, playing “tag” or “capture the flag” in the yard, finding a simple sport that your child enjoys like kicking a soccer ball around or throwing a football, having a dance party in the house where they get to choose the music, playing a game of “simon says”.
• Ages 8-12: Helping your child practice for a sport in the yard, jumping rope or hula hooping, swimming in the pool, creating a local scavenger hunt around your neighborhood or in a local park, going for a walk or jog around the neighborhood.
• Ages 13-20: Encouraging participation in sports and outdoor activities with friends, taking a walk around the mall a few times and window shopping, signing up for a 5K or a 1 mile “fun run” in the area.
3. Keep the focus on healthy habits.
It’s important to teach kids that exercising is part of a normal healthy lifestyle. It is vital to exercise to take care of our bodies, not to focus on weight or physical appearance. Set a good example for your kids, making healthy choices for yourself and not talking out loud about your own weight or body insecurities but instead focusing on all the amazing things that your body allows you to do.
Encourage your children to have fun while they are enjoying exercise and healthy foods. Talk about the positive things that they are doing for their bodies and minds. It’s important for kids to voluntarily choose an activity they love and not feel forced into a sport or specific activity. Try to be open minded and allow your children to explore things that make them happy. This could range from conventional sports to dance, gymnastics, yoga, martial arts or any other variety of things that will keep them engaged and active. Give your kids lots of options and allow them to find their passion but limit them from sitting at home and playing video games or watching TV.
4. Keep it simple.
Getting the daily amount of recommended exercise does not have to be hard or even planned out ahead of time. If it’s a nice day outside, encourage everyone to go outside and play or decide to visit the park together.
Walking is the simplest form of exercise that most everyone can do. Whenever you are in a new place, take a walk and go exploring (if conditions are safe). Park the car in the back of the lot when you go somewhere to get a few extra steps in and take the stairs whenever possible. Use any opportunity to get some extra exercise in for yourself and your children.
5. Limit screen time.
Monitor and limit time spent on screens including TV, tablets, phones – there is a correlation between more screen time and the increasing childhood obesity epidemic.
There are so many ways to involve your children in daily exercise to set the foundation for healthy habits. Get out, get moving and have fun together!
Some resources in Anne Arundel County:
Originally published at Chesapeake Family Life