With so many distractions for kids not to exercise, from video games to computers and the fattening of America taking place at an ever increasing pace, kids are more unfit than any other time in our history.
In major studies during the last ten years, children from the ages of six to 17 scored extremely low in areas of strength, flexibility, and cardio respiratory endurance. Television watching, electronic games, and inactive parents were implicated as major sources of the lack of exercise.
Children, teenagers, and adults need to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day. However, it’s estimated that only one in three American children participate in daily physical activity. And about one-fourth of all adults and young people from the ages of 12 to 21 are getting no vigorous exercise at all.
Kids need to learn at a young age that fitness can be fun! Children have a short attention span (20 minutes) when it comes to fitness, yet an unlimited capacity to watch the monitor or TV. Kids fatigue in a shorter time, and become both over-heated and dehydrated in a shorter time than adults. Fitness has to be fun and diverse to peak a child’s interest and turn physical activity into a “looked forward to” time of the day.
One of the best ways to increase the overall fitness of a family is by exercising together. Variety of activity is the key to keeping all family members enjoying exercise. The older the children, the more important it becomes for exercise to be “fun”. Motivation must come from Mom and Dad through example, creative activities, and persistence. Physical activity sessions do not need to last longer than 30-45 minutes but should be scheduled on a regular basis.
Everyone should enjoy the sessions, and they should not be rigid or competitive in nature, especially where young children are involved. Family physical activity time results in family bonding. As each family member enjoys the activities, it should become easier to schedule the sessions. One of the most important results is the teaching of good health habits that can continue for a lifetime.
We have two children (8-10) who have been involved in fitness with us since they were 3-4. How?
Going for walks, playing at the park, beach. Learning how to ride bikes, swimming (year round-indoor or outdoor). We purchased a mini-tramp then a larger one for the kids to bounce on, and would jump with them. Taking the kids to the gym so they could watch us exercise for short periods and then letting them use light weights at home. Rolling balls across the floor and chasing them on all fours. Now as the kids are older, they are involved in team sports (soccer and softball). We still take the dogs for walks together, and choose to take small vacations that always include swimming, biking and some walking.
For kids to get excited about exercising, parents have to be excited. Get out and be active with your kids. Children live what they learn.
By Mark Occhipinti
Mark J. Occhipinti is the President of AFPA Fitness. Be sure to visit their site for more easy-to-follow fitness articles, tips, and recipes at AFPA Fitness