The American Centres for Disease Control says: “Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day.” They stress focusing on various kinds of exercises, such as muscle strengthening, aerobic activity and bone strengthening.
Every parent wants their kid to be as healthy as possible. Seeing children in an unhealthy state makes everyone upset, whether parents or not. But parents obviously have a vested interest in wanting to make sure their kids are okay. As many know, prevention is often better than cure. A good way to prevent sickness is to find ways to keep kids healthy and active. The problem is such activities tend to be viewed by kids as boring, meaning they’ll struggle to adapt to them or refuse to listen to parents.
We should, therefore, keep this in mind when thinking of interventions that can work.
One of the best ways to encourage fitness is through play. This doesn’t just work for kids. Adults, too, love making games out of activities that would otherwise be boring. Sports is an easy and obvious option, especially team sports. For kids, this means being able to bond with people their own age, competing to win and probably getting prizes (even if they’re not the winners). As Kids Spot notes: “sports have been found to enhance brain development and raise IQ. In addition, he says that sports build confidence, develop focus and teach kids about emotional control.”
Games also tend to last long enough to warrant meeting daily targets. Kids don’t realise they’re engaging in important physical activity, because they’re too busy enjoying themselves.
Of course not every child is comfortable being part of a team or is good at sports. Also, we have to worry about sports injuries. Sometimes the competitive nature of games can create an antagonistic environment for our kids.
We can create private play areas in our homes or take them to professionally managed one. Sometimes referred to as “soft play” areas, these are designed to facilitate kids’ activity, without concerns of competitive or physical danger. These places involve similar physical activities: climbing, running, jumping and so on, which are important to kids’ health. But they are “soft”, in the sense of having plenty of cushions and safety nets preventing injuries or falls.
Again, ideally, kids will be so distracted by the fun they’re having, they won’t realise why we’re letting them do this (not only to give them time to have fun, but to stay healthy and ideally socialise with other kids).
Bicycles are another secret weapon parents use. Kids love having autonomy and many long for the day when they can drive their own cars. We can start their independent transportation dreams early by looking at kids bikes. Not only do these tend to be safe, but we can also create spaces where they can be used.
Safe neighbourhoods or areas we have control over. A major concern for bike riding is cars, of course, but if we get our kids to ride in safe areas where cars aren’t allowed, this danger is gone. Although we need to exercise caution when letting kids ride, they love the fun and freedom it provides – and they stay healthy by exercising their heart and lungs.