Physical activity is a vital part of staying healthy. Encouraging healthy habits in your child is one of the best things a parent can do to ensure a healthier life. Being active can help kids--and adults--have healthier weights, less fat, and stronger muscles and bones. Activity can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and stroke. It can also lessen feelings of depression, and boost confidence. As children get older, they often reduce their physical activity. Because of this, making activity a family priority is key.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) advises that kids ages 17 and under get at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. The DHHS recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity. And one of the best ways to meet your goals is to work on them as a family.
A little bit of planning can help make physical activity a fun part of your regular family life.
Talk with your child’s pediatrician. If your child has chronic health concerns or injuries, his or her doctor can help you figure out which activities will work best.
Write down an activity goal. Start with something small that you and your family can reach together. Be specific. For example, decide to do 30 minutes of activity four days a week for four weeks.
Create a family activity calendar. Plug in activities for each week, such as going on a family hike, walking the dog, or playing sports. Post it in a spot where everyone in the family can see it.
Make a menu of fun choices. A list of activity ideas can get the ball rolling. Think of activities that work best for your child’s age. See the list below for some suggested options.
Let your child help pick activities. If your child is involved with choosing activities, he or she may be more excited about them.
Track your progress. Put fun stickers or notes on the calendar to celebrate milestones and other achievements.
Limit TV and computer time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of “screen time” per day.
Reschedule, don’t cancel. If something comes up and you have to miss activity time, plug the activity into a new time slot.
Set challenges. Create small contests for your family members. Who can climb the most stairs in a week? Who can be the first to walk the dog three times? Offer small rewards, such as special stickers on the calendar, or colorful certificates.
Make it social. Invite neighbors or your children’s friends to join your activities. You can invite them into your challenges, too.
Be positive and encouraging. Physical activity is easier for some kids, and harder for others. Overweight children may feel self-conscious. Let your child go at his or her own pace, and offer support and encouragement. Promote a positive attitude. Positive experiences with activity will make it easier to keep your child involved and interested.
Be a role model. Your positive attitude about activity will help your child see it as an important part of a healthy life.
Dance in the living room to your favorite songs
Do house and yard work together
Go hiking in a local park
Help clean a local park
Play an active video game that involves fun body movement
Play games such as tag, catch, or Frisbee
Play sports such as soccer, basketball, tennis, or badminton
Ride your bikes together
Take regular family walks on weekend mornings, after dinner, etc.
Take stairs instead of elevators or escalators, and keep a stair count
Take the dog for a walk or jog
Train together for a charity walk or run
A child with healthy habits is more likely to grow into an adult with healthy habits. When physical activities are a family priority, they can help give children a great foundation for a healthy life.