Make It a Family Affair: Benefits of Active Children

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As adults, we are well aware that if we spend all of our free time lounging on the couch, our waistline, as well as our health, will take a hit. For children, the temptation to sit in front of the television or play video games is strong. Without motivation to move, it’s likely they’ll continue their sedentary habits, so make it a family initiative. Spending time together as family is associated with a stronger emotional bond, better communication amongst family members, less behavioral problems, and improved school performance. Children learn habits from their parents, and this includes healthy habits too.

Improve Physical Health

Physical activity is essential at every age, because like adults, children are at risk of developing chronic diseases too, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Children who are inactive have decreased opportunities to develop important motor skills, and are more likely to develop sedentary habits that will last their entire life. To avoid setting your child up for an unhealthy lifestyle, get active together. Physical activity is important for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or weight, so the entire family can benefit. Social support from family has been shown to have positive effects on the amount of activity performed by both women and men, so the influence of family is strong.

According to recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine, children should be physically active for 60 minutes or more each day, including moderate to vigorous intensity exercise, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening exercises. Children’s time spent doing sedentary non-academic activities, such as watching television or playing video games, should be limited to less than two hours a day. For adults, the physical activity recommendation is 150 minutes each week.

Limit Screen Time

Childhood obesity is a serious issue, and it is exacerbated by the fact that more and more children are becoming sedentary. Children are sitting around more often than they used to, and spending hours every day in front of some sort of screen whether it is the television, smartphone, tablet, computer, or other devices. To encourage your child to become more active, limit the amount of screen time by putting limits on time spent using media. To decrease the temptation, keep TVs, computers, and video games out of children’s rooms and turn off all screens during mealtimes.

Let Your Child Take the Lead

As you to start to incorporate more physical activity into your child’s life, let your child take the lead. Kids enjoy feeling a sense of power and mastery. According to education professor Dr. Steve Sanders, “Your role is to be a facilitator or guide to help your child learn about, refine, and improve physical skills,” which creates trust that carries over into other areas of your child’s life.

Encourage your child to initiate the physical activity, whether it is kicking a soccer ball, swimming (there is plenty of great exercise equipment out there for this), drawing with sidewalk chalk, or crawling around on all fours pretending to be a dinosaur.

The key to encouraging more physical activity is make it fun, so get creative. For example, turn your yard or nearby park into an obstacle course, make up your own sport, build a fort out of blankets, or add new twists to classic games such as freeze tag and hide-and-seek. Make household projects such as staining a fence, painting a wall, or planting a garden a family activity rather than one just for adults. In addition, if your child is already involved in team sports, you can still be involved by volunteering with the team, traveling to away games, and practicing one-on-one with your child.

Family time is great way to incorporate physical activity and improve the health of the entire family. Everyone can reap some sort of benefit, so make it a fun time for all involved. Encourage your child to learn new skills and tap into their interests as you become active together.

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