Encouraging Your Kids To Be More Physically Active

As the weather warms up, we start to think about getting outside. For me, there is nothing like the feeling of the warm sun on my back as I walk. And I always remember feeling that way from the time I was very small.

Last month, I wrote about finding ways to move more by finding a physical activity you like and are more likely to stick with. But encouraging your kids and your entire family to be active and stay that way can be daunting, especially in a time when there is so much competing for their time and attention.

Did you know that the American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every single day of the week? Most kids get less than half of that amount and physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. It also increases the risk of stroke and such other major cardiovascular risk factors as obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and diabetes.

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I read a study the other day that shocked me: kids today spend about half as much time playing outside as their parents did. Why? Because they would rather read, do homework, watch TV, play computer games or even do chores, rather than play outside. Yet, nearly 50% of parents say they wish their kids would play more outside.

It makes sense to parents because we look back fondly on those days of our childhoods when we played outside until well after dark. Those were the days when we created our memories. And when we think about the scrapbook pages of our lives, they are often littered with the firefly catching, marshmallow roasting, sprinkler running, tag playing moments of those warm summer days and evenings.

So how do we bridge this gap? How can we change this and encourage our kids to put down the technology, put away the required reading and spend time just being kids and making their own memories?

Physical activity should be fun no matter what your age. Find something you can do together as a family and increase activity naturally by reducing sedentary time (watching TV, playing computer games, etc.)

Parents should be the role models for active lifestyles. I have always enjoyed walking outside with my dogs in tow and especially love going out to local parks to enjoy the different seasons, for example. I like to take my kids and family members along and talk to them about what makes each season special.

Try rewarding children using sticker charts, for example, displayed prominently in your home, to help them view physical activity as something for which they receive positive recognition and a reward.

Not every child is coordinated and some struggle with being overweight but all need to be physically active. It’s important to encourage everyone in the family. Find an activity you can do together. Your heart will thank you!

Check out this article for ideas on home exercises for families with kids.

Beth professional highBeth Langefels is senior director of communications and marketing at the American Heart Association.

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