If there’s one thing that most parents of my age group can easily complain about, it’s how children now days seem to be engrossed in technology with less time for physical activity. It’s become a genuine issue, with childhood obesity hitting an all-time high in North America and kids showing no signs of slowing down, figuratively-speaking. This is where it becomes important for parents to not only encourage proper fitness but to show the right example by indulging in physical fitness themselves.
When my son Nathan was barely beyond his toddler years, my wife and I signed him up for a kids’ activity group, which included soccer balls, hoops and games in order to stimulate physical activity and learn team skills. Nathan’s inability to keep his attention on a single thing for longer than thirty seconds resulted in him running around and doing his own thing while other kids were seated in a circle, learning new things. It was embarrassing at the moment, but the reality is he still played his heart out and got some exercise.
We chose not to keep him in this group, since he had to be signed up and we would have to start paying for fees. I couldn’t justify spending money on an activities group he wouldn’t comply with, so I took his fitness into my own hands. Nathan has always been a child with excessive energy levels, but he rarely sees fit to use them appropriately for fitness. This is why it sometimes makes it difficult to get involved in something structured.
Don’t get me wrong, there are days when he’s raring to go and I’m the one settled on the couch. But there are a number of important reasons WHY it is so important to get our children off the floor and doing something physical. I’ve been pretty fortunate that Nathan is often game to join me on the mats and do some exercise, even when his idea of exercising is hitting me repeatedly with a punch mitt until I stop my reps and wrestle on the floor with him.
Exercise is an important part of a child’s development. Exercise is required in order to strengthen bones, increase muscle mass and improve a child’s overall proper growth. From a non-physical standpoint, exercise is also important for a child as it promotes socialization, self-esteem and helps with concentration and schoolwork. That last sentence is an aspect that most parents tend to forget. And most reputable sources, and I’ll let y’all look into those yourself, recommend at least an hour of rigorous physical activity every day.
Although it can be hard to get kids interested in physical activity, there’s a lot you can do to encourage it:
- Be The Example: It stands to reason that if your kids see you sprawled on the couch with a bag of chips, binge-watching a show for four to six hours without moving, this is the standard that they’ll grow up with. They’ll assume that laziness and apathy is acceptable. After all, if it’s good enough for mom and dad, it should be good enough for them, right? Wrong. Even if it’s just to get your kids moving, you need to set the example. After all, the family that stays fit together, stays healthy together;
- Limit Screen Time: This is a tough one, especially for my son. And to be honest, it can often be tough on my wife and I, as well. It’s SO easy to tell Nathan “Go watch a show on your iPad,”when we’re trying to get things done or want some peace and quiet. But realistically, keeping him off a screen is important to helping him grow and develop properly;
- Plan Activities: Although I would like being able to tell Nathan “Go outside and play,” this doesn’t work for most kids. Some of them may be able to go outside and entertain themselves, but it doesn’t allow for much structure. Plus, let’s be honest: sitting in a sandbox rolling a small car doesn’t do much for fitness and proper health. Play some ball, run some races or go talk a walk. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise is important, even for kids;
- Keep Up The Encouragement: Hey, my son can’t throw a proper front kick to save his life. And his idea of blocking consists of squatting down into a ball and covering his head with his hands. The martial artist in me cries on the inside. The daddy in me is just happy that he’s training with me. But no matter what, the high-fives and pats on the back need to keep coming. It’s pretty hard to stay motivated if one isn’t encouraged. This is true of adults as well.
At the end of the day, this is one of those things where anything is better than nothing. But there are also certain restrictions you need to observe. Children really shouldn’t be doing any heavy weightlifting until they’ve finished growing. They can lift weights, but they should avoid lifting HEAVY weights for the purpose of lifting as much as they can as it can interfere with the body’s proper development.
Keeping kids physically active and engaged is about more than just getting exercise. It helps to mold the foundation they’ll need to maintain proper health, growth and development throughout their formative years and into adulthood. And maybe, just maybe, the parents will join in for the ride. ☯
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