Easy Ways to Keep Kids Fit and Healthy
Kids Need Exercise as Much as you do
According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 kids in North America is overweight or obese, fully 33 percent. If those statistics are shocking, consider that this number has tripled since 1963. Fortunately for any parent who is concerned about their child's level of physical activity, some simple action steps and a little creativity can make a positive impact in the right direction
Get Involved in Sports
Let's get the obvious out of the way; sports, whether individual or team, can have a positive effect on a child's mental strength, physical well-being and self-confidence. If your child isn't interested in the common hockey, football, soccer, baseball or basketball choices, give them alternatives and let them guide the way. Make it clear they need to be involved in something.
Martial Arts: Is one better than the other? Who cares! A good school with reputable instructors will help children build self-confidence and mental discipline, not to mention physical strength and endurance. Try the local community center for inexpensive, short term classes, or an organization like the American TaeKwonDo Association (ATA) which places a high value on building good citizens. Also, of course is the benefit of learning self-defense.
-BMX: Less expensive than motocross, racing BMX bikes or even trick riding is a great way to stay in shape while having fun. Kids can start off with an inexpensive bike and, if they choose to be competitive, you can invest in something more suitable later. Helmets should always be worn (even if their friends don't,)and elbow and knee pads are a good idea when practicing tricks on the street or a ramp.
-Surfing/Swimming/Diving: Living near a beach like those found in South Orange County, California, surfing is as popular as little league, and there are many competitive opportunities for kids and teenagers. But you don't have to be competitive, or even ride a surfboard to enjoy the benefits of riding waves. With decent fiberglass surfboards easily fetching $300, why not get a bodyboard? Bodyboarding is an easy way to get your first wave ride, and there are many decent models for around $100.
Swimming and diving are sports where the child learns what it is like to be part of a team, but has the opportunity to shine because of their individual efforts. In general, endurance activities in the water burn more calories than many other sports, while developing coordination and a useful lifelong skill.
Make it Fun
It's the mantra when it comes to kids, "if you want them to do something, make it fun." That military style fitness bootcamp may be effective for you, but it would probably leave your kid in tears. Maybe it's time to turn your home into a kid friendly gym. For folks lucky enough to have a sturdy tree in their yard and a spacious garage, this part just got easier.
Depending on whether you are raising a toddler or a teenager, the equipment will vary. Putting a small bouncer in the living room or a colorful mini-playset in the back yard will work wonders for younger ones, but if you have a lazy 12 or 15 year old, they might need more motivation to get moving.
When buying anything for your kids with fitness and play in mind, shop with an eye for the future. Buy the bigger playset so they can still use it three or four years down the road, or consider full-sized swings and trampolines instead of smaller ones.
Start with what you have
A sturdy tree makes a great place for rope swings with an old tire on the bottom, climbing ropes with kid friendly knots every few inches, and simple plank board swings. You can also build or buy a simple wooden ladder to make climbing into it easier and safer.
For a few dollars, home improvement stores carry reliable swing hardware that anyone can install, as well as rope thick enough to support several hundred pounds. The only problem will be keeping the kids inside to do their chores.
This same principle can be applied in the garage or if you have one, a separate workout room. Kids love to swing, hang and climb, so why not encourage it under your supervision? With simple eye bolts screwed into the ceiling joists, you can hang gymnastics rings or homemade suspension trainers from the ceiling.
This is an apparatus that draws kids like a magnet, and gives parents a fitness teaching opportunity. With an investment of ~ $200 in safety pads from a sporting goods store, the whole operation can have a good measure of safety as well.
***Note: Dense gymnastics pads are designed to absorb impact. Substituting air or spring coil mattresses for pads could result in injury in the event of a fall.***
Other fitness equipment you may already have on hand can also be adapted for fun kid activities. For example, try setting up an obstacle course with foam pool noodles and medicine balls. The kids have to carry the medicine balls through the course, jumping over the noodles as they go.
Inflatable Swiss exercise balls are another favorite. These cost, and bounce, almost the same as a giant playground ball. Practice handball against the garage (inside or out) or if they are strong enough, do punching or kicking drills by tossing the ball to your child and having them whack it back.
Let's not forget the punching bag! The Wavemaster and Century models use a leakproof water-filled base you can use inside or out. The material on these 'bags' is easier on the skin than canvas, but buying bag gloves will make this activity more exciting and protect kid's hands. No need to be concerned about the value of your investment here; this is a piece of equipment which is likely to be used for fun or to relieve stress by the whole family, for years.
Model Fit Behavior
Kids follow their parent’s every move, including eating and exercise habits. As a result, children with healthy parents are more likely to be interested in being active and eating nutritious foods. Indulge their curiosity by bringing them with you on a jog, or to hang out with you while you workout. With some encouragement, they will eventually find their own path to staying fit, and will develop a healthy lifelong habit.
What can kids do with a nearly 30 degree grass hill and some long pieces of cardboard? Go fast of course! Despite the inherent danger of moving at extreme downward angles toward the pony wall of someone's back yard, this wild group managed to avoid injury. They couldn't avoid the walk back up however; notice you don't see any parents hiking that hill?
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