Today more than ever it is harder to maintain a healthy lifestyle with sedentary pastimes such as watching television, playing video games and surfing the Internet competing for our kid’s time and replacing more physical activities.
Combined with the easy availability and low cost of unhealthy processed foods or ‘junk food’, then this can have an impact on children’s health, not only throughout their childhood but leading into adulthood causing serious health problems at a later date.
It is therefore important to make a concerted effort to ensure children lead a healthy lifestyle and maintain overall fitness. However it can be difficult to make a start and to inspire your kids to follow your lead, so we have compiled a list of ten tips to help you along the road to health and happiness.
1) Involve the Whole Family – Sometimes kids can be reluctant to take part in sports and games, especially if they think that they are being ‘forced’ to do them against their will. Children take their lead from their parents so if they see their parents taking part in sports and fitness then they are more than likely to want to copy. Ensuring that the whole family stay fit and healthy can provide the right motivation for the less reluctant child to get involved. Embracing a healthier lifestyle yourself can help teach a child that they need to do the same.
It doesn’t have to be all about playing ‘football’. For instance a family outing to the zoo, theme park or local attraction such as a ruined castle will keep kids on their feet, give them something interesting to see and do whilst keeping them fit at the same time. Making an effort to have days out where the whole family joins in can lead to a child having an overall healthier lifestyle.
2) Use ‘Active’ Transport – Ditching the car when possible and either walking or cycling instead can help keep the whole family fit and healthy. Perhaps this means walking to school instead of taking the car or maybe a trip to the local park or shops can be accomplished by cycling there instead.
Although it may not be possible for everyone to ditch the car so easily due to distance or time constraints the occasional journey can still perhaps be substituted. Not only is walking or cycling better for your health, it can save you money and help the environment- all great examples to set your kids!
3) Regular Exercise – The key to staying fit and healthy for both adults and children alike is to exercise regularly. Try to schedule exercise activities (whatever they might be) at regular intervals but do let your kids set the pace. As soon as a child feels they are being forced to take part in a ‘fitness’ regime then you may start to get some resistance and refusal to join in.
Pushing your kids beyond their limits may have a negative impact on them wanting to do anything at all. Forcing them to train to become better at a sport or activity can seem like the right think to do if they appear to have a talent for something, but it is important to ensure that your kids are happy and not resenting the activity, as long term this will end up becoming a problem.
4) Keep Fit Through Daily Chores – Lets be honest, no kid enjoys having to do their weekly and daily chores, but chores are a good thing to implement as they help teach a child responsibilities whilst helping them to ‘earn their keep’.
If your child isn’t that keen on sports and outdoor activities then a subtle way for them to get some additional exercise is by combining their chores with physical activities. For example washing the car, mowing the lawn or vacuuming the house all are great ways to burn some extra calories and to get your kid moving and keeping fit without them even realising it!
5) Keep it New and Fun!
Many of us can recall sports lessons at school when we were forced to do sports we didn’t enjoy, more often than not in the freezing cold, without proper clothes. These horrible moments cement a negative impression on sports and fitness in a child’s psyche. This negativity needs to be avoided so the buzz word to remember is ‘fun’. If you ensure that any activity you take part in is fun for your child then fitness doesn’t become a burden or a chore and soon becomes a normal, everyday part of their life.
Kids can bore easily so an activity they have enjoyed in the past may quickly loose its shine from one week to the next. Unless you are intent on turning your kid into the next sporting superstar then whatever activities they do to stay fit is unimportant as long as they enjoy it.
Introduce new sports and activities into a child’s routine can be a great way of finding new active hobbies so it’s worth experimenting and trying different things. How about crazy golf, trampolining, horse riding or kayaking? There are plenty of things to try!
6) Turn the TV Off – When you live a busy life and have a full time job to contend with then it’s easy to let your kids entertain themselves in front of the television. Years ago kids TV was limited to a few hours in the afternoon and morning, but now with the advent of cable and satellite channels, children have dedicated stations that they can watch all day. There’s nothing wrong with watching TV, it can be fun and educational, but it’s a very inactive pastime.
Try to limit screen time and turn off the TV after a few hours. There may be arguments to start with but your child will start to get into a routine and will also look for other things to do whilst the TV is switched off- ideally more active things to do!
Kids also love playing computer games which are traditionally thought of as being very inactive. Lately things have changed a little- with the release of games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Sports, you can now get a workout in front of the TV. Where possible steer your child towards these ‘active’ games and then they’ll get the benefit of keeping fit and healthy, whilst doing something they really enjoy.
7) Try the Scouts & Guides – Not all kids are the outdoors types so may not suit absolutely everyone, but getting your kids involved with the Scouts, Guides or similar well organised groups can be a great way of ensuring your child lives an active lifestyle. For example the Scouts in the UK are open to young people from the ages of 6 to 25 and they take part in a wide range of activities from rock climbing, camping to sailing and hiking. Also there are a lot of creative and educational pastimes that these groups get up to making it a completely rounded experience.
8) Nutrition & Healthy Eating – To maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise needs to be combined with healthy eating and good nutrition. Good nutrition doesn’t always have to be about boring foods that your child doesn’t like, so try to introduce a wide range of cuisines and styles to your child’s diet. You never know what they might enjoy eating.
Moderation is the buzzword for eating healthily. Minimise unhealthy snacks such as crisps, chocolate, biscuits and sweets and perhaps introduce them only as treats or for special occasions. Your child will not get used to having these ‘treats’ all the time and will appreciate them much more when they do have them. Unhealthy foods as listed above do not provide much if any nutritional benefit and can contain unhealthy additives which most nutritionists agree are not great for long term health.
Be wary of processed foods, they can sometimes contain unhealthy amounts of salt, sugar or other additives. Try to cook meals using raw ingredients, that way you’ll always know what goes into your food. It can be more expensive and time consuming to do this but the long term benefits to the whole family can be immense.
9) Team Games – If your child is showing signs that they enjoy sports such as: football, hockey or netball, then getting them involved in a local youth squad is a great way for a child to get all the exercise they need. Not only will they have fun and get fit, they may make friends with other kids on the team providing additional reason to go to team practice sessions. Adults can also get involved, perhaps by helping out with coaching or lifts to and from training sessions.
Again, having fun is key- if your kid stops wanting to go to practice, initially some light coaxing or persuasion may be necessary to get them back in the mood. However if this reluctance persists, long term you are better off letting your child dictate what they enjoy doing. As mentioned previously in this article, kids can get bored easily and can soon go off any activity, no matter how much they previously liked it.
10) Activity Holidays – Looking to kick start a new healthy lifestyle for the whole family? Taking an activity holiday where your child can get to try a wide range of sports and activities can be a great way of getting fit and finding new and interesting things to do. Venue’s such as Center Parcs offer the perfect weekend break escapes with a wide range of activities that suit all ages and they also run special offers such as ‘kids eat free’, which can save you money. Finding activities that inspire your children to become more active is the best way to ensure that they keep fit and healthy. Activity holidays are a great way on ‘hitting the bullseye’ and finding things that your child enjoys, that you may not have ever considered before.