Watching too much TV or sitting for too long in front of a computer or video game are easy habits for kids to form – and potentially detrimental ones. Studies are showing that when children live a more sedentary lifestyle, they are at an increased risk of developing childhood obesity. And those same sedentary kids often grow up to be inactive and unhealthy adults, often leading to adult obesity and serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. And is it any surprise why sedentary kids grow into sedentary adults? They have never learned to be active or enjoy physical activity or how to incorporate it into their lifestyles.
Many experts recommend that kids get no more than 1–2 hours of TV/computer/video games a day when, in actuality, a lot of kids get closer to 4-6 hours. Most parents acknowledge that their children need to watch less TV but they dread the screaming, yelling and crying that often follows the request to turn off the tube. And simply hiding the remote and unplugging the modem aren’t going to cut it and will likely lead to a full on battle royale in your living room, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
How can you get your kids to tune out and get moving? Kids learn by example don’t forget. So help them be more physically active by being more active yourself and making time on a regular basis for family focused fitness.
Here are a few ideas for ways to be active together:
Make a splash. While a weekly step aerobics class may be your cup of tea, it isn’t likely to keep your 8-year-old’s interest. However, a trip to the pool just might do the trick. Many recreation facilities have time set aside each week for family swims, when fun extra features like Tarzan ropes, water slides and diving boards are available to use.
Ask them out. When you think ‘date night’, you probably think dinner and a movie. But if your kids are young, bedtime probably arrives before the credits roll. So why not ask your kids out on a backwards date? Start your Saturday afternoon off with a fun family activity – go bowling or hit up a park or an indoor playground like the Fun Zone at Dalplex, and once everyone’s had their fill of fun, head home for a healthy dinner together.
Do something seasonal. Encourage the kids help rake the leaves in the fall – after they’ve played in them for a while, of course. Go sledding or take the kids to the rink for a family skate in the winter. Plant a veggie garden or walk in the park in the springtime. Get on your bikes and go for a ride together in the summer or play catch in the backyard.
Sneak in more exercise. Have to go to the corner store to grab milk? Make it a family outing and walk there together. Too far to walk? No problem. Park as far away from the door as you can and walk with your children to the entrance furthest away. And if the option is available, choose to take the stairs instead of using an elevator or escalator once you’re inside.
Remember that what you do sends a much more powerful message than what you say. If you or your partner spend every evening glued to the TV after dinner or check email on your smartphone constantly, the message that ‘too much screen time isn’t good for you’ isn’t going to be the message that gets though loud and clear.
Dalplex, Dalhousie University’s main fitness and recreation facility, has been proudly serving the community for over 30 years, offering a wide variety of fitness, wellness and recreation programs and classes for adults, children, youth and seniors. Visit their website or follow them on facebook.