Keeping Kids Active All Year Round


Keeping kids physically active throughout the year can prove challenging. With many technological distractions, cuts in physical education programs and limited time with busy schedules, it can be tempting for them to live sedentary lives.

The benefits of exercise for children are numerous and include weight control, better sleep patterns, stress relief, mental clarity, increased focus and energy. With the demands on children today, all these things are essential. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends children and adolescents engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for a minimum of 60 minutes per day.

keepingkidsactive2Joni Johnston, an International Sports Science Association (ISSA) certified personal trainer and mother of two boys, says that much of her kids’ interest in exercise and healthy living stems from an overall active family lifestyle. “As a family, we try to be involved in a variety of activities that keep us moving, whether it’s enrolling in running races together, playing sports, hiking or simply getting off the couch and heading outside to the park.” Like most moms, Johnston shares that it’s sometimes a challenge keeping them moving, but she knows that the things kids do when they are young are the best indicators of the lifestyle they will live as an adult, so it is imperative to develop good patterns early on.

SET FAMILY GOALS. Bring your family together to brainstorm healthy living goals for the upcoming months. Each family member should be encouraged to share ideas at this meeting. As parents, offering children a list of sample ideas is a good place to start. Kids can circle the ideas they like as well as add their own. Even young children can participate in this activity. Once the list of goals is completed, post it in a prominent place in your home as a reminder. Keep in mind that family fitness should be fun and you should incorporate activities in which everyone can be involved.

ENROLL IN SPORTING ACTIVITIES. Sports are an excellent way to help kids stay active and are typically offered year-round. Team sports aid in developing new friendships and boost self-esteem. Additionally, participating can be an excellent way for kids to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. According to the American Heart Association, overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults and, as such, have a higher likelihood of developing problems such as diabetes and joint pain. This illustrates the importance of instilling positive habits at a young age. During the colder winter months, look for activities at local gyms and indoor facilities. Winter is often a great time to try new outdoor sports such as cross country skiing or sledding.

ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE. “Lecturing children is not necessarily effective, but talking to them can prove beneficial,” says mom Jaime Michelle, a middle school counselor and ISSA personal trainer. Talk to your children about why being active is an important part of life. Discuss the use of games and television and set parameters together as to how often and in what capacity they should be used. Kids are more likely to follow guidelines when they understand why they are set up. This is especially true for families with older children. Communication can go a long way toward developing healthy patterns.

keepingkidsactive4DISCONNECT FROM ELECTRONICS. Most children have a natural propensity to want to move their bodies. Electronics, by and large, prohibit that. Limiting time on electronics encourages children to use their creativity and imagination, and it promotes activity. In the spirit of role modeling, parents should also disconnect from their electronics when with their children. Rather than simply telling children to do this, make a family commitment to this goal. Select a day to disconnect, and plan activities that encourage movement and activity. This will not only help keep children active, it will also create an environment for family growth and development.

KEEP IT FUN. Children are motivated to move when it’s fun to do so, and they are more likely to stick with things they enjoy. When planning activities, be sure they are age appropriate. Kids’ attention spans are shorter than adults; therefore, activities in shorter durations of time more frequently are ideal. Planning ahead is helpful, but being spontaneous can also prove exciting and fun.

Of all the ways in which kids are motivated to stay active, watching those with whom they spend the most time modeling the behavior has the most impact. Plan to make fitness a part of your life, and your kids will follow suit.

Photography: Stephanie Heymann, Thompson Image

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