In today’s electronic filled world it’s difficult to get most kids away from the television, computer, video games, and cell phones. Yet, it is vitally important for youths to get enough physical activity each day. For some parents this seems like a daunting task and it can be, but the rewards are great. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adolescents get at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day and this should include aerobic, muscle, and bone strengthening activities. Walking at 3 to 4.5 mph on a level surface is the standard for moderate activity. Now, most of us are saying “Great, I know the amount but what activities should they be doing, and how do I get them involved?” These are great questions and are very common among most parents, and this should help you answer both.
First, however, lets discuss the benefits and reason the CDC recommends 60 minutes a day. There are numerous benefits from regular physical activity and exercise such as longevity, health and wellness to strength and performance gains. Physical activity can help control weight, build and maintain strong bones and muscles & improve and maintain cardiovascular health. For example, regular physical activity has been shown to be of benefit in helping prevent high blood pressure. By engaging children and teens in activities early in life it will help shape their attitude and behavior towards exercise as well as establish good habits for their lives.
How do you get your child or teen active? This can be tough, but like most things one of the best ways to do this is to be active yourself. Setting a positive example and leading a healthy active lifestyle is one of the biggest and easiest ways to encourage your children to do the same! This not only benefits you but also increases the ways you can share experiences and bond as a family. Next is to establish a daily routine of activity; These can be as simple as taking a walk together, playing active games together, going for bike rides or taking a hike as a family. Taking children and teens to places where they can be active is another great way to stimulate them. Community parks or playgrounds are fun and enjoyable places to go as well as baseball fields and basketball courts. Support your child in their active interests such as sports and encourage them to try new sports and activities. Often times, these can be grouped together. Let me share a short story with you.
At age 10, a young boy and his grandmother started going for walks together, a mile or 2 every night. They continued walking together – or sometimes he would ride his bike – for the next 3 years. They would sometimes walk to parks and playgrounds where he would run around and play on the equipment for bit before they returned home. Other times they would just walk. They experienced both the physical and health benefits from these walks but they also enjoyed the family time and the bonding. To this day those walks are some of the fondest memories they share with each other. The point of this story is that being active together as a family will not only improve your quality of life from a health and wellness perspective but will can also bring you closer together as a family.
So what are some ways to get your children active that are fun and exciting? How about shooting hoops or playing basketball. This is a great way to get your kids active along with improving motor skills, building bone and muscle, and let’s face it, its fun! Soccer is another great sport that can be played together. It can be as basic as kicking the ball while moving around a field back and forth and it is great for coordination or it can be made into a full game. This can be a great aerobic and bone building activity. Often times Frisbee has been left off of lists but it is an excellent way to get outside and be active. A personal favorite is Ultimate Frisbee where there are no steps after the catch and it takes a minimum of 5 passes before you score. The weather, however, is not always so cooperative to allow for only outdoor activities and as such. Indoor swimming can be a wonderful family activity. It can be a full body workout to building muscle strength as well as aerobic endurance. Lastly games are a great way to get kids interested in activities and setting up an indoor relay or obstacle course can be fun for everyone.
Getting your children to be active is important to a healthy lifestyle. If given the chance do activities as a family, they are much more fun and rewarding. Finally, 60 minutes a day of moderate activity is only the minimum guideline according to the CDC but you can always aim for more.
Andrew Peck, CPT