Children who exercise are more likely to maintain an active lifestyle as an adult, but what children want to consciously ‘exercise’? It’s hard enough for some adults to find the motivation, but as adults we become more aware of the importance of moving, and the implications of the risks when we don’t move our bodies enough. Exercise should be enjoyable (or at least we shouldn’t hate it) at all ages, but it’s especially important that children enjoy moving to build long lasting habits and help them achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Regular physical activity also helps build and maintain healthy muscles, bones and joints, and is the foundation of many friendships and social interactions.
The Australian Health Survey (AHS) 2011-2012 indicates that only 1 in 3 children, and 1 in 10 young people, undertook the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
These findings highlight that only 19% of Australian children and young people ages 5-17 years are accumulating 60 minutes of exercise every day of the week, while only 33% – 39% of primary school students are engaging in at least 120 minutes of exercise a week.
SO HOW CAN YOU ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILDREN TO WANT TO MOVE MORE?
WALK THE DOG
If you have a dog, involve the children in their furry friends regular walks. Highlight the importance and how much your pooch loves going for a walk, and ask your child if they’d like this ‘responsibility’.
If you live on a traffic safe street, go old school, get the chalk out and encourage the neighbors to get involved, play hopscotch, tag, soccer.
If your child loves soccer, or dancing, or any sort of sport; encourage them. This is not only a great form of exercise but also great for building relationships, confidence and social skills. Sporting schedules can be hectic, but if children truly enjoy what they’re doing then the benefits to their overall health and well-being vastly outweighs the occasional inconvenience of juggling pick ups and drop offs and early morning starts.
TRACK PROGRESS AND OFFER REWARDS
Motivate children to move. Have a calendar and every time they complete 30 minutes of ‘exercise’ – whether this be walking the dog, playing sport, playing in the street with friends – mark it off. Once they’ve completed 120 minutes a week, reward them with something they’ll be excited about, maybe this will be a trip
TIME IT RIGHT
Children have hectic schedules, with school, homework and early nights to be refreshed for the next day, it’s important to time activity at a time when they’ll be keen to do it. If your child struggles with mornings, don’t try and force them to do mornings, if your child is full of beans straight from school, look at activities that they can do then to burn some energy before they get stuck into homework and winding down for the day.
MAKE MOVING PART OF FAMILY TIME
Set one morning of a weekend to go for a walk, bike ride, or a swim as a family. Take a much needed break from technology and make this part of your weekend routine, follow it up with breakfast either out or at home.
SNEAK IT IN
Not all exercise has to be scheduled or last for an hour. Ask your children to help you with the housework, vacuuming always builds up a sweat!