We live in a time where kids are less active than ever.
With so many electronic entertainment options, things like riding a bike, climbing trees and playing tag aren’t as exciting anymore.
Because of the electronic lifestyle many children live today, childhood obesity is on the rise. We see it in the news all the time, and the statistics are startling.
According to the CDC, “The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s.”
If we don’t do something to change this, the next generation will fall even further into the crisis. This epidemic can be reversed by teaching our kids the importance of leading an active lifestyle.
Here are five things I do to teach our children the importance of being active.
Model good behavior.
Make fitness a priority for you. If you are always grumbling about how awful it is to exercise or be outside, so will your kids.
It is a known fact that kids are great at mimicry. Kids model the behavior they witness the most, and that starts at home.
Kids that grow up understanding the value of exercise will become adults who value their health. Then, when they have their own brood, they will teach their children the same things.
There is a trickle down effect that will affect the future generations. So let’s teach our kids to have good, healthy habits.
Make exercise less about “being healthy” and more about having fun.
This is the time to be adventurous! Take the kids hiking, visit a new park, have scavenger hunts, the possibilities are endless. Our kids even love watching exercise song youtube videos, they love them! You can find more here!
A few of our very favorite things to do are go swimming, roller skating and playground hopping.
I am always asked what the heck playground hopping is.
Playground hopping is something I started doing when our kids were little and I needed to get some exercise. I would load the 2 littles in the double stroller, pack our bag full of water and snacks and just start walking. Every time we came to a playground we would stop and play for a while.
Since we no longer live in a large city with well thought out communities, playground hopping looks a little different now. Instead of walking from place to place we have to drive. The exercise value has been lost for me, but the kids still enjoy it.
Limit screen time until everyone has gone out to play for an hour.
We hear this a lot, but it is so true. The more time kids spend in front of screens, the less they want to be outside playing. This perpetuates the childhood obesity epidemic.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics has released a much more lenient set of guidelines for screen time, it is important to find balance. It is also recommended that kids engage in a minimum of one hour of activity per day.
Find a balance that works for you and your family.
Talk with kids about the effects that a lack of exercise can have.
I believe it is important to have an open and honest conversations with our children. They have the ability to learn and understand much more than we sometimes give them credit for.
Talking about things like heart disease, diabetes and obesity (both adult an childhood obesity) along with how to prevent them, will help them make better choices in the future.
Sometimes I get flack for how open I am with our children about things like this. I feel compelled to point out that there is a way to discuss negative things in a positive light, if that makes sense.
Please understand that I am not saying to guilt or put fear into your kids surrounding these issues and I am very careful about perpetuating “eating disorder culture.”
When it comes to the matter of obesity and childhood obesity I normally wait for a teachable moment. At some point, one of the kids will ask a question. Recently, the question was from our 7 year old son and he asked, “What makes some kids fat and some skinny?”
I used this as a teachable moment for him and our girls. We sat down and discussed food choices, how and why our bodies store fat and how sometime illnesses and medication make people gain weight and that we shouldn’t shame people for their body type.
Get kids involved in an active hobby.
This doesn’t have to be team sports, there are more active hobbies out there than football, baseball, soccer and cheerleading.
That’s great if you have a kid that is interested in one of those sports, but if you are like me and have a kid or two that doesn’t want to play a team sport, I have a few suggestions.
Check out different types of dance classes and see which ones your kids like best.
Are there any parkour or “ninja warrior” type gyms in your area? They usually have kids classes.
Ice skating and gymnastics are great solo options as well.
Rock climbing gyms are cropping up just about everywhere too! I am just waiting for one to open within driving distance for us!
There are also kids track teams, while not a “solo sport” entirely track isn’t quite like a traditional team sport. One of our kids just loves to run, that’s her thing so we roll with it.
Find something your kids love and run with it!
Exercising with your kids, having fun and placing rules around video games and other “screens” will begin to reverse childhood obesity.
Getting started is the hardest part! But, I do know that excitement is infectious. So when you start applying new things to your life be excited about it! It will eventually rub off on your kids.