Kids need exercise. That’s probably not news to you – recent studies out of the U.S., Europe and Asia have shown that childhood obesity is on the rise. But when TVs and tablets beckon, how do we get kids moving?
1. Make fitness a habit. Want to institute regular fitness at home? Make Sunday bike day or go for a walk every night after dinner. Treat your activity like you would a swimming lesson or a yoga class: schedule it and stick to it, and it will become routine.
2. Be a role model. When parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends make fitness a part of their daily lives, they’re leading by example. You can’t veg out in front of the TV every night and expect your kids to do anything different. Get moving yourself. Have your kids cheer you on at a volleyball game or a race. Let them see you heading to the gym, playing sports, and riding your bike to work. Making fitness a normal part of your routine makes it their “normal” too.
3. Make it fun. If kids think staying fit means doing something they don’t enjoy, you’ve already lost them. Show them it’s something to be enjoyed. Start an impromptu soccer game in the park. Invite a friend along on a hike. See who can get to the stop sign/tree/front door fastest. Play a fitness video game. Turn up a great playlist and dance.
4. Let them choose. Instead of putting kids in fitness activities YOU think they’ll like, have them pick one they want – with the understanding that they have to do it for an agreed-upon length of time, like a season. Be prepared to follow through on whatever they choose – with hockey equipment, martial arts classes, circus school, you name it. When it’s their idea, they’re a lot more likely to be enthusiastic about it.
5. Offer incentives. Think about how adults will go out of their way to get to 10,000 steps on their activity tracker. Why not do the same with your kids? UNICEF Kid Power, a U.S. program supported by John Hancock, uses Kid Power Bands (activity trackers) to encourage kids to get active. They earn points every time they play basketball, run around in the park, ride their bikes or walk to school. Those points unlock therapeutic food packets for severely malnourished children in other parts of the world, delivered by UNICEF. Kids who took part in the program in 2015 were 55% more active than their peers – and they helped other kids get healthier too, while building empathy and understanding.
How do you ensure that your kids are staying fit amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life?