Did you know that one in five children, or 20 percent of all minors in the United States, suffer from childhood obesity? That is three times the rate that it was in the 1970s. Not only is childhood obesity a problem that must be recognized and dealt with, but it's one that only continues to get worse. Obesity at an early age can place boys and girls at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, among other complications – all health issues that were once considered to exclusively affect adults. But there are steps that can be taken to help combat this problem. Here are five ways to encourage your child to be more physically active:
1. Participate Yourself!
Children like when their parents are involved and present in their lives. Even teenagers, who may not like to admit it! They learn better and tend to behave better as well. All of this is to say, if you want to promote physical fitness in your household, the best thing that you can do is lead by example. This might mean asking your children to go on walks with you after dinner, or setting aside time on the weekends to play a game of Whiffle ball. By participating yourself, you are not only advocating and promoting the behavior, but giving your children added incentive to participate themselves.
2. Make Gaming Part of the Process
In today's digital world, it's all but impossible to keep kids and teens from video games. From consoles to mobile devices, video games are everywhere. Even if you don't have a console in your house, the odds are good that your child's friends will. So instead of shunning video games, consider embracing them instead – believe it or not, there are a multitude of games that encourage physical fitness. If you can't beat them, join them! Your kids will be having so much fun dancing to Just Dance 2017 that they won't even realize they're getting a workout at the same time!
3. Consider Youth Athletics
There are youth athletic organizations in communities across America. From AYSO to Little League, there's bound to be a league near you that your son or daughter can participate in. The benefits of these leagues extend beyond mere physical fitness, as well. They help build confidence, foster a sense of team work, and promote discipline. It's important to remember that your child may not necessarily like everything that is good for him or her – at least not initially. But like broccoli and peas, some things are good for your children even if they may not believe it.
4. Explore the Great Outdoors
Exposing your children to the great outdoors can help them develop a sense of appreciation for nature, encourage intellectual curiosity, provide them with lifelong memories, and enable them to be physically active. Whether you call New England home or the Pacific Northwest (or somewhere in-between), make exploring the great outdoors a family affair. You can monitor your physical activity with fitness trackers like the Lively Wearable (from GreatCall, maker of senior fitness trackers) or Garmin vívofit® Jr. (a tracker for the little ones), and plan your trips using the various outdoor apps available for Apple and Android. Leave Suburbia behind and breath in the fresh air.
5. Set Screen Time Limits
When we were children, the big concern was how many hours a day we spent in front of our televisions. Now that children consume media from a wide range of devices, the concern is daily screen time. And it's not without merit. After all, if you want your children to be physically active, you're going to have to separate them from their tablets and smartphones. To do this, set screen time limits for your children and hold them to it. If necessary, you may even want to lock out your children using a passcode, or limit app time using custom settings. Let your children know what your expectations are for daily activity, and do everything that you can to promote that.
Start Moving – It's That Simple!
If you want your children to be physically active, it starts with getting up and being active. As with many things in life, the simplest solution is often the best solution. Go outside, take up sports, play games, explore your surroundings, and ditch the mobile devices. Not only will your children reap the benefits, but the odds are good that you will too!