Movement is medicine; I truly believe this holds true no matter your age. For kids physical activity is such an important part of their development. It’s good for building strong bones, strengthening muscles & tendons, cardiovascular health, and mental health (that list could go on and on)
How much activity do kids need?
If we go by the guidelines kids aged between 5-12 need an accumulation of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. Whether it’s organised sport, running around in the playground or walking the dog. It’s all movement, and the more the merrier with there being additional benefits that come with higher levels of exercise.
As a parent the challenge can be getting your kids to not only participate but also to actually understand the benefits of being active and as well as the consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle.
When I was a kid it was easy. There was no iPads, no Netflix, no YouTube. We had to go all the way to a video store if we wanted to watch a movie, not to mention it cost a months pocket money. Lunchtimes were for playing tip, afternoons were spent outdoors playing hide and seek or some make believe adventure game. Unfortunately now we now live in a world where sedentary behaviour is rising and it's going hand in hand with the rates of childhood obesity.
How can you help keep your kids active?
Play a team sport
Not only does sport clock up the activity minutes but there are many important lessons that kids can learn through sport; like how to win, and lose, how to share and be part of a team (which is a skill we need throughout life). Sport also harvests some of the strongest friendships and these friends will be serve as fantastic motivation for your child to want to play again next season.
Spend time outdoors.
It should be a rule that kids spend some time outdoors every single day regardless of the weather or your schedule. I recently babysat my niece and nephew and it was raining the entire day. That didn't stop us, on went the gumboots and rain jackets and we jumped around in puddles for hours. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces and I even felt a little nostalgic about my own childhood.
Set a good example
You will have a pretty hard time encouraging your kids to be active if you aren't doing the same, and this goes for nutrition and healthy eating habits as well. Family time spent doing activities can be a great bonding experience and it can send the message to your kids that being fit and active is cool! Not to mention its the perfect excuse to unleash your inner child!!!
Have some guidelines around sedentary behaviours such as watching TV or playing games on the ipad. 1 hour a day is more than enough TV especially during the week, weekends you can obviously be a little more liberal but your kids shouldn’t have the expectation that they get to watch TV whenever they want.
Give kids chores
Sweep the floor, hang out the washing, wash the car. We used to have weekly tasks in my family and the reward was $5 into my piggy bank. A little financial motivation can go a long way and in my opinion much better than food based rewards.
At the end of the day it really just comes down to making physical activity fun for your kids. Every kid is different, some just love being active and they will happily run around for hours playing any sport possible with minimal promoting, while others may lack confidence to play sport or feel scared about being part of a team. Parents need to be able to read their own child and use the most appropriate strategies to encourage an active lifestyle.