One of the most important components to living a healthy life is to be physically active. Parents know this and want to teach their kids to live active lifestyles but may not always know how to instill a love for exercise into their kids.
Begin at the Beginning
The development of habits, both good and bad, happens over time, and once established, many habits are hard to break, so the earlier that parents begin including physical activity into the lives of their children, the better. Babies are naturally curious about their surroundings, a trait that parents should encourage. Allowing babies to explore rather than penning them up in play-yards is beneficial to their intellectual as well as their physical development. While there are certainly times when little ones need to be contained for safety reasons, parents should try to limit the time that their babies spend inactively. Jumpers, bouncers, and other toys that encourage active play are great choices for babies!
Many of today’s parents, in a well-meaning effort to keep their kids safe and make their lives easier, do far too many things that the children could easily do for themselves. Parents often provide transportation for their children, even when the destination is within easy walking or biking distance, passing up many opportunities for healthful exercise.Additionally, today’s kids report doing far fewer household chores than those of a generation ago. While Mum and Dad are undoubtedly trying to be nice by excusing their kids from these tasks, they are actually doing their children a disservice. Not only is it beneficial for kids to shoulder some responsibility for household chores, but some active tasks can easily count toward the hour of daily exercise that is recommended for kids and teens. Housecleaning, pulling weeds, raking leaves, and even taking the family pet for walks are all chores that not only get kids up and about, but teach them what it means to be contributing members of a family.
Scheduling Time for Activity
“Lack of time” is a reason often given when people are asked why they don’t exercise as often as they know they should. In reality, poor time management is a more likely truth. Very few people fail to make time for the things that “matter,” yet in some families, scheduling time for kids and teens to participate in daily sports and exercise never seems to make its way to the top of the priority list. In order for kids to see an active lifestyle as normal, their parents must take the initiative and find ways to incorporate activity into their daily lives. Clearly, if a family’s days are already booked from sunrise to sunset, some current activities may have to be eliminated in order to make time for exercise and active play, but when parents realise the benefits of getting their kids off the sofa, rearranging their schedules is sure to be worth the effort.
Set the Example
If Mum and Dad avoid daily exercise, their children are likely to follow suit. Active parents who take pleasure in running, biking, swimming, and playing sports are showing their kids that exercise and activity are not only healthful, but fun, making it more likely that the kids will grow up with a positive attitude about exercise. Kids not only learn to appreciate an active lifestyle from observing their health-conscious parents, but when parents include the kids in some of their activities, children are bound to find a few sports that they find especially fun. Helping kids to discover a sport that they love and will stick with is a gift, one that may just last them a lifetime.
Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery – in fact, it shouldn’t be. Young kids find exercise to be fun; running, jumping, climbing, dancing, and hopping with gleeful abandon. It is only as they age that children seem to lose their zest for active play and that is most likely because they are given the message that playing is for children. Playing should be for everyone. Not only does engaging in sports or other active exercise improve physical condition, it offers emotional benefits, as well. Kids and teens (as well as adults) who engage in regular physical exercise report less anxiety and depression that their sedentary peers. Additionally, kids who are allowed to find healthy outlets for their natural energy are calmer and more focused at school, helping them to excel academically. So playing is definitely not only for children – everyone, from the youngest family members to Grandma and Grandpa, should look for opportunities to play and have fun. Life is far too short to waste a minute of it worrying about looking silly!