How Do I Encourage My Child To Be More Active?
Being physically active has many health benefits no matter what age you are, but it is especially important to help children develop and grow into healthy adults.
Did you know that children and teens (ages 6-17) should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day? In today’s digital world, getting your child to put down their electronic devices and do something active, can be hard to achieve. But with a little effort, we can help them learn healthy habits and find activities they can love for a lifetime.
Why is it important for children to be active? Active children are more likely to have:
- Improved mental health and psychological well-being, including confidence and self-esteem
- Stronger, healthier bones and muscles
- Better school attendance and academic performance, especially in math, reading, and writing
- Better heart and brain health
- Improved brain function, including memory, attention and problem-solving
- Less stress and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression
- A healthy weight
- Less inappropriate and distracting classroom behaviour
As parents, you play a key role in encouraging physical activity and ensuring that your child completes an adequate amount of exercise to maintain their health.
Here are strategies that will help you to encourage your child to be more active:
- Be a role model. Present physical activity as an important hobby to take care of your body and health, rather than a chore. Find activities you enjoy and be active for at least 30 minutes five days a week. When your children see that you are enjoying being active, they will be more likely to model your behaviour.
- Plan activities. Organise active play.
- Make it fun. Encourage active play to make it feel like your child is playing instead of exercising. Try Simon Says, hopscotch, jump rope, Frisbee, badminton, and volleyball. Depending on the season, plan trips to a local bowling alley, swimming pool, or skating rink when those options are available.
- Encourage activity. Encourage your child to keep trying activities to discover the ones they like and will stick with. Do not use physical activity as a punishment.
- Reduce screen time. Reduce or limit screen time when it comes to watching television, playing video games, or using the tablet or phone to watch YouTube videos. Do not use electronic devices as a babysitter.
- Outdoor chores. Encourage your child to participate in active outdoor chores such as raking leaves, pulling weeds, watering plants, driveway, or cleaning the garage. Make the chores feel fun with upbeat music and be sure to join in to get them done as a family.
- Provide opportunities. Provide your child with opportunities to be active. Give them active toys and games, like bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, scooters, jump ropes, balls, and sports equipment.
- Support them. Support your child’s participation in sports, dance, and other active recreation like swimming, cycling, and running.
- Go outside. Head to a park to play a game of Frisbee on the grass or encourage your child to ride their bicycle on a trail close to your home. Whatever activity your child chooses, time spent in nature offers an opportunity to be active.
- Start slowly. If your child is very inactive, start slowly. Increase the amount and intensity of activity gradually each week or so. This may help them avoid discomfort or injury and adjust to a more active lifestyle without becoming discouraged.
- Allow time with friends. Your child will be more active when spending time with friends compared to when they are alone. A 2014 study showed that children were 54% more active when playing with a friend compared to playing alone. Arrange weekend play dates to allow your child to shoot hoops or play a game of tag with his friends.
- Praise them. Praise, reward, and encourage your child when they achieve even the smallest milestones. It will help them create a positive mindset towards staying active.
What if my child is uncoordinated, disabled, or overweight?
All children, even differently-abled ones, need to be physically active. Activity may be particularly helpful for the physical and psychological well-being of children with a disability or weight problem. Support them in being as active as possible. Avoid comparing them to other children or shaming them if they are not able to do as much. Celebrate their achievements and successes. Above all, keep it safe, and keep it fun!
Just like in adults, increased physical activity is associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of many diseases and health problems. In other words, a longer and healthier life.
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