Get Up and Go! Making Sure the Kids Get Their Exercise

Give children some great reasons to stay connected to their bodies by getting your exercise as a family.

We all know we should stay active, but we get busy, then we get lazy, then we fall out of our routine, and before you know it, the pants don’t fit, and we feel grumpy and sluggish all the time, and that’s only the beginning of the downward cycle.

What we often don’t realize is that our own lifestyle in terms of physical activity also has direct and serious consequences for our kids. Regular exercise is critical to normal development, and it can deter diseases like diabetes and heart disease1.

Even more fascinating is the relationship between learning and play: when the body is active, the brain is working on fine and gross motor function, hand-eye coordination, and synaptic pruning. Kids grow by doing, is the lesson there.

In fact, doctors’ advice is that toddlers get 30 minutes of planned or structured play (like a game) and 60 minutes of free play, and preschoolers should get 60 minutes of both everyday1. So how can we cement some good practices for our kids in terms of strength, flexibility, and balance? Here are some suggested practices from the experts:

  1. Limit TV and screen time. Health care professionals see a correlation between these sedentary activities and the uptick in child obesity, so the recommendation is that kids watch TV or play video games for no more than one hour a day.
  2. Get plenty of sleep. No one wants to work out when they are tired, so make sure you are all getting to bed at a reasonable hour. This is also part of a healthy cycle; studies show that regular exercise promotes regular solid nights of sleep.
  1. Find a sport they love. If a kid falls in love with a sport whether it’s golf or baseball, you will not have to worry about his or her exercise. Instead, you get to worry about the cost of uniforms and injuries. Just kidding!
  1. Dance daily. Nothing gets the blood pumping like music so turn up a high-energy song at least once a day in the house, and shake the stress off. This might not count as full-on exercise (unless you boogie for 30 minutes or so) but it will create an environment where spontaneous activity is normal and encouraged. Other types of dance to consider: ballet, tap, hip-hop, Zumba, and partner dancing like ballroom or tango. You never know what will get everyone twirling!
  1. Get on the bike. The bike is a great way to get someplace, get your fresh air, and get your blood pumping, so get your kids on a balance bike or trike early. As they grow, you can get an attachment that pulls them where they can pedal but you are still in control and then they can graduate to their own bike. Making this part of a daily or weekly routine kills two birds with one stone. Plus it’s really fun and saves you the stress of parking.
  1. Build in some adventure. With a little planning, you can take the kids on a hike, go kayaking, or even mountain biking. Making it fun to be out there all day doing something strenuous gives everyone a feeling of reward.
  1. Don’t forget to stretch. This is the part everyone forgets, but it’s really important to stretch your muscles to avoid injury and keep your maximum range of motion. Just a few minutes a day makes a big difference in the way everybody’s body responds to exercise.

Remember that it’s not just the brain, heart, bones, and muscles that benefit from being active, it’s also a great way to build self-esteem and protect children against mood disorders. The sooner we can automate exercise into our daily family life, the easier it will be for our children to maintain it. So stay curious about what gets them going, and find a fruitful outlet for that childhood energy, because they will thank you later.

 

References:

  1. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercise.html

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

Leave a Reply