Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough Exercise
With childhood obesity on the rise, it is more important than ever to make sure your kids get enough exercise. Decades ago, this was never an issue. Kids naturally wanted to be outdoors and move around. They ran, played, climbed, jumped rope, and rode their bikes as much as they possibly could. Now we have television, X Box, computers and very little incentive to go outside. It needs to change and it starts with the parents.
It is a lot easier to sit down and be entertained by the TV than it is to entertain yourself. It is easier to play a basketball video game than it is to go shoot hopes with the neighborhood kids. It is easier to lie on the couch and read a book than it is to ride your bike around the block. While these things are easier (for the kids AND the parents) that doesn't make it better.
Kids need to be active. They need an outlet for their energy - or they will gain so much weight that they can't be active. It is not just about not being obese though, but also about being fit. Last summer my daughter wanted to ride her bike around our block. It is only a half a mile around and she asked the neighbor's daughter if she wanted to go with her. It was taking forever so I went looking for them. The neighbor's daughter (who is very skinny) could not make it up the slight hill to come home and was walking and pushing her bike. It is very sad when a child is so out of shape that they can't ride a bike a half a mile.
How can you make sure your child gets enough exercise though? I think the first step is to make them go outside. Yes, even in the winter. That is what snow clothes are for. Turn the TV, video games and computer off and tell them to play outside. If you can be out there with them even better. Modeling good behavior is one of the best ways to keep your kids fit. If they can't find anything to do, you can make some suggestions. For example, I might tell my son that he could shoot baskets, climb a tree, walk the dog, or sweep the porch. It won't take long for him to come up with something fun.
If your kids don't know where to begin, then schedule some fun outdoor activities. It is very hard to be sedentary while outside. Go for a bike ride, walk around your neighborhood, go hiking, pack a picnic lunch and hit the park for the afternoon, play follow the leader, go to the zoo - anything that will get them moving and outside. There is so much to learn from being in nature. It is hard to stay fit and get exercise when you are indoors all the time (but it is possible!), so one of the best things you can do is get kids outside.
If you want your kids to stick around the yard you can put together an outdoor fun box. Ideas of things to include in the box are sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, bubbles, Frisbees, bouncy balls, shovels and buckets. Kids are naturally creative if given a chance and I bet you will be surprised at how well they can entertain themselves once they know they have to.
There is also something to be said for organized sports. Especially if your child really resists you trying to get him to exercise. Soccer is a great way for kids to get exercise and almost all kids love it. There are many options around for all sorts of sports or even just outdoor camps and game camps. My son is taking a class called Gym Games right now. They play games in the gym every Monday after school. Essentially it is a whole bunch of running around and it is perfect for him. Just don't do what my neighbor did and pull your child after the first week because she didn't like all the running.
If you truly are stuck indoors there are things you can do inside too. When my kids were younger we would have contests to see who could jump up and down on one foot the longest. Now that they are older if they have too much energy I might tell them to run up and down the stairs twenty times or do a hundred sit-ups. In the winter we also "work out" together. It isn't a work out like you think for adults, but it is basically all of us moving and exercising together. Exercise is always more fun in a group.
I firmly believe that a child cannot be outside too much or get too much exercise. Being fit and healthy is excellent for anyone. If you put a priority on it, your child will naturally follow. Once they get going, I bet they will prefer to be active rather than sedentary. There is a time and place for TV and video games, but it should be a very small part of your child's day. So get out there and get your kids moving - they will thank you for it later.
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