Being fit and active as an important part of everyday lifestyle cannot be overemphasized. Recent statistics have shown that people aren’t getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity they need for a healthy life. And this inactivity starts young.
The earlier we teach our kids about the positive aspects of regular exercise/fitness, the more it will become a part of their everyday lifestyle. We need to change the unhealthy dietary behaviors and sedentary lifestyles many kids have today.
Put simple: “The best way to have fit and healthy kids, is to be a fit and healthy adult.”
Exercise for kids means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise when they have gym class at school, during recess, at dance class or soccer practice, while riding bikes, or when playing tag. Parents can promote physical activity not only by limiting TV and screen time, but also by being highly supportive of their children’s active pursuits.
Sadly, inactive and sedentary children typically go on to become inactive and sedentary adults, increasing their risk for cardiac disease, depression, and diabetes as they get older.
Childhood inactivity has created such alarm, that federal and state governments have invested millions in the hope of encouraging kids to put down their smartphones and pick up a jump rope. Yet despite all the money thrown at the problem, the effort has only been nominally successful; no kid, if any, starts exercising because they see a television ad encouraging them to get off the couch and move.
The Many Benefits of Exercise for Kids
Everyone can benefit from regular exercise. Kids who are active will:
- have stronger muscles and bones
- have a leaner body
- be less likely to become overweight
- decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- lower lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
- have a better outlook on life
Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better. They’re also better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test.
Below are a few suggestions in encouraging your children to exercise
Your kids are always watching what you do and picking up cues on how to behave. If they see dad lying around polishing off entire sleeves of Tagalongs, well, your kids are probably going to do the same thing. But, if they see that you regularly exercise and find ways to stay active throughout the day, then chances are, they’ll follow your lead.
So the first thing to do to create a love of fitness in your kids is to lead by example and exercise regularly yourself. When you’ve got free time at home, get up and do something. Pursue an active hobby like hiking, canoeing, intramural sports, or cycling.
Discuss Fitness With Them
Another way to create a positive culture of fitness in your home is to make it a regular topic of conversation. You wouldn’t think kids would be interested in the subject, but they surprisingly are.
By regularly talking about your training with your kids, you’re reinforcing a family culture in which physical fitness is an important part of life. Exercising is what keeps us strong and healthy so that we can be useful human beings, as well as enjoy life to the utmost.
Roughhouse With Them
One of the most important things a parent can do for his children is to roughhouse with them. It makes your kids resilient, smart, and compassionate. It also encourages your kids to be physically active.
Roughhousing is a way to make physical activity fun for your kids, and when you do it with them, you’re providing a direct example of staying physically active in adulthood. There’s nothing much to roughhousing. Just get on the floor and play with your kids. Wrestle with them, let them climb on you like a horse, chase them around the house. There’s no wrong way to roughhouse. Just keep it safe and fun.
Let Them “Play” Gym
While you might be anxious to get your kids going with a structured weight-training program so that they can turn into little beasts, for the sake of the long-term fitness of your children, hold off on it.
For starters, prepubescent children just don’t have the adaptive capacity to keep up with progressive, incremental weight increases with a barbell training program. That ability won’t kick in until they hit puberty.
Second, and more importantly, your kid has the rest of his or her life to train. Setting them up with a regimented program when they’re six years old is just setting them up to burn out on exercise by the time they’re in their 20s.
So if you shouldn’t train your kids when they’re young, what should you be doing with them?
Instead of training your kids in the gym, let them play in it (under your supervision, of course).
If your youngsters tell you they want to try some of the same exercises that you’re doing, by all means let them. If they want to do a barbell squat or deadlift or power clean, show them how to do it with proper technique. If they want to do wind sprints with you, have them tag along. Swing a kettlebell? Get a light one for them.
Let your kids do any and all exercises they want to do. Just keep things light, fun, and unstructured. The goal when your kids are young is to make fitness enjoyable.
Get Them Involved With a Sport and Do It With Them
Once you find a sport or activity that your child enjoys, get involved with them. Don’t just be a spectator. It’s an opportunity for them to be active, practice nascent athletic skills, as well as learn how to be coachable and work on a team. When they’re young, organized athletics should emphasize fun, play, and learning skills. There will be plenty of time for traveling teams and two-a-days when they’re in high school. So before you sign your kiddo up for a sport, check out a practice or a game.
In conclusion, you’re in a unique and crucial position to create a culture of physical fitness in your home. Don’t squander it. Lead by example by exercising yourself and finding ways to reinforce a love of physical fitness in your family. Being active should just be something your family does. That attitude will carry on throughout the rest of your children’s lives, and their children’s lives, becoming one of your greatest legacies.