Experts suggest that children who spend too much time in front of a screen, and not enough time moving around, may be putting their health at risk. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that every hour of television watched by a toddler may result in 13% unit decrease in physical movement. Ultimately, this lack of movement can result in an elevated body mass index (BMI).
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over the past 30 years, childhood obesity has skyrocketed. Since 1980, childhood obesity has more than doubled in young children, and tripled in adolescent kids.
With the growing appeal of video games, Netflix, smartphones, and a million other reasons to stay parked on the couch, it is crucial for us to motivate our lazy kids. Kids and exercise should go hand in hand, and it is up to parents to make sure that happens.
Benefits of Regular Exercise for Kids
Regular exercise is one of the best things we can all do for our bodies, and this particularly true for developing kids who spend most of their days sitting at a desk. Just some of the myriad benefits include: improved bone health, lower levels of body fat, a stronger cardiorespiratory system, more muscular fitness, better moods and lower instances of depression, better sleep, healthy weight, reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes, better ability to concentrate, and best of all, a better outlook on life.
Unfortunately, despite these incredible benefits, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, up to 80% of kids are not meeting the minimum national guidelines for daily aerobic activity. So what can parents do?
The best way to get your children up and moving is to get yourself up and moving. This works in two ways. First, when you set a positive example for your children, you can motivate them to make healthy choices. Second, your children want to spend time with you. When you spend quality time doing active things, you can achieve two important goals at once.
You might get started by going for a short family walk every night after dinner. As you become more ambitious, try going for a family bike ride, playing frisbee in the park, or signing up for a water sports class together. If you can implement active living into your life as a family, you don’t need to pressure your kids to go out and do things. You are all doing things as part of your normal, everyday routine.
Think Outside the Box
Start recognizing that any kind of movement is valuable! Your child may not enjoy typical sports or athletics, but perhaps they enjoy dancing at home to music. Maybe they like to hula-hoop, run at the playground, or play hopscotch. Any time that is spent moving your body, and not relaxing on the sofa, will have positive benefits for your health.
Another trick is to simply sneak tiny bursts of movement into your normal, sedentary activities, like driving in the car, watching TV as a family, or doing homework. You can try pulling over into a parking lot every 30 minutes or so, and running 5 laps around the car. You can do jumping jacks during TV commercials. You can take short homework breaks to dance to your favorite song. As much as possible, try to make physical movement a natural part of your day.
Limiting the amount of screen time your child has access to may help them become more creative in their daily activities.
Using a fitness tracker can be a fun way to motivate your children, while also keeping track of their movement throughout the day. You might use the promise of a new activity tracker as a reward for good movement, or simply use it to inspire your kid to get off the couch. If you think a fitness tracker might be useful for your child, below are a few suggestions for fitbits for kids.
For children 4-7 years old, the LeapFrog LeapBand is a good choice. If you want something that is water-resistant, check out the Garmin Vivofit Jr. The FitBit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker has settings that allow you to keep track of your kid’s activity level throughout the day. Finally, the Sqord Activity Tracker has a vibrant online community, which can help your child integrate positive screentime with physical exercise.
Ultimately, you know your children best. By setting a good example, integrating movement into the time you spend as a family, and getting creative with what qualifies as “exercise,” you can get you kid motivated, and set them up for a long and healthy life.