“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” we’ve all heard this saying, but consider this: children in previous generations lived by this saying and today’s generation have heard it and abides by it as well but in a different way, by playing with technology, sitting in their homes with their mobile phones, tablets, and other gadgets and becoming sedentary. Children should be physically active from an early age, engaging in activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and keep their bodies fit. Regular exercise may do more than help your kids stay lean and fight off diseases. Some research suggests kids who are physically fit do better in school than ones who are less fit.
Physical activity strengthens children’s bones, muscles, heart, and lungs. Improves children’s coordination, balance, posture and flexibility. It also helps in children maintaining a healthy weight and reduces the risk of falling sick, getting heart disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes later in life.
Now comes the most important question, how to encourage children to be physically active? As a parent or adult, your children watch and mimic your habits, good and bad. If your kids see you being physically active and having fun, they’re more likely to be active and stay active throughout their lives.
Ways to Encourage Children to be Physically Active
- Focus on fun- kids like to have fun, so they’re more likely to keep exercising if they’re doing an activity they enjoy. Turn on music and have a dance party, or pack in lots of walking during trips to the park etc.
- Include kids in household activities- Many household chores, like washing the dog or the car, cleaning the house or mowing the lawn, are great opportunities to sneak in a little physical activity.
- Limit TV and computer time- Set a time limit for watching TV, computer and mobiles. Doing this will help them to not get lethargic and also not get addicted to gadgets at a young age.
- Plan vacations with new ways to exercise- Plan your family vacation around an activity or two. Think hiking, off-road cycling, kayaking, camping or snorkelling. You’ll get to explore new places and teach your kids to appreciate nature. Plus, the activities you try on vacation might even become the hobbies your family enjoys for years to come.
- Make activity social- Invite your kids’ friends to join the activity. “The number one reason people stick with exercise is they’re engaged and accountable,” and they’ll probably have more fun.
- Incorporate activity in daily work – Walk your kids to school, bike to visit friends or roller skate to the park at the far end of parking lots and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Use competition as a motivator- Make it a contest between you and the kids to see who can run faster, or do more push ups or jumping jacks. Give the winner a prize. And, use technology like smart watches of fitness bands to track your results and progress.
- Provide a safe environment- Make sure your kids’ equipment and where they practice or play is safe. Make sure your kids’ clothing is comfortable and appropriate for the activity.
- Help your kid find his/her passion- your kid will more likely maintain an activity if they really are passionate about it so help them find what they really love to do.
- Do not overdo activity- Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If it becomes painful, your kid should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it.
Active physical play & games is a means by which children (and adults) can engage in physical activities that promote healthy lifestyles and a genuine zest for life. Through active participation in self-directed and adult-facilitated play, children acquire increased cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility. Young children have not only movement skills and perceptual abilities; they also have the joy of movement.
Learning to move and moving to learn are too important to be left to chance. Parents and teachers have a precious opportunity to help set the stage for young children to enjoy physical activity for a lifetime.