As I mentioned last week, September is Childhood Obesity Awareness month. Obesity is a rising epidemic for children and the health ramifications that come along with excessive weight at an early age are great. Children are now developing diseases in their early ages that used to be reserved for adults. It is a scary and serious reality that our society is now facing. But I would also like to point out that a child’s weight is not the only deciding factor when determining if one is healthy. And childhood is the time when we want to teach our kids healthy habits that they will hopefully carry into adulthood.
As parents, you are the ultimate role model and you set the tone. The types of foods you eat and also serve to your children affects their health greatly. We talked about food in last week’s Fitness Tip. If you have a child that IS overweight, diet is going to be the most important factor in cultivating positive change in your child’s life. A strong focus on quality of food, not so much quantity, is required.
Exercise is important too but what constitutes exercise when we are talking about kids? Again, I only have my own children that I can refer to and I mentioned last week that my kids are all of a healthy weight. My kids are also naturally active. They move around a lot. From the moment my two middle boys get up they are wrestling. When my 10 year old does play video games it is most often standing up and moving around, even absentmindedly jogging in place while he plays. My four year old takes sporadic “laps” from the family room to the living room and back again and I even let him bring his scooter in the house. My 12 year old daughter is no longer into running around, that’s not cool anymore, but she is involved in cheerleading and gets activity in her practices and games. My oldest son, 16, is probably the most sedentary but even he goes out to play soccer with his friends or just walk around town for a while to “hang out.”
My kids and I go to the park a lot and in the summer one of our favorite past times is a quick drive to Saratoga to walk the streets, go on the carousel, watch the ducks, and maybe a quick bite to eat. Circus Café is one of our favorite places to go. My kids love the booth in the window because it gives them the space and freedom to move around as they like to do and I don’t have to worry that they will be annoying other patrons.
So there is a point to what I am writing here and I know you the reader might have been expecting a list of exercises to do with your kids, or places to go for great kid fitness classes, but that is not the point.
My point is this. Keep it simple. Find basic ways throughout each and every day to let your kids be kids and keep them moving. Get them off the couch, let them fidget and wrestle (within reason), try not to over structure, and let them be kids. And better yet, be a kid with your kid.
Don’t sit on the sidelines and watch them play. Your kids are watching you all the time. Play with them. I am amazed at all the parents just sitting in their identical cup holding canopy covered chairs at my son’s soccer game. Stand up, move around as you follow the game. Maybe during the breaks you can kick a ball around with your other kids who had to tag along and are “so bored”.
And at night, turn off those televisions. Family movie nights can be great once in a while but there is so much else you can all be doing. Heck, put a mini trampoline in your house, a Wii Fit, blare some dance tunes. Have a hula hoop competition. Kids cannot sit STILL when dance tunes are playing. It is a proven scientific fact! And I guarantee laughter will be dosed out in large amounts too.
And what’s even better? Movement spurs brain activity and creativity. It gives kids more energy and they sleep more soundly at night.
Being playful with your kids also allows them to see you in a whole other light. They may be confused at first and depending on their age they may give you the raised eyebrow “oh my god, Mom, WHAT are you DOING look?” But that’s a normal reflex response. They can’t help it!
This may take some thinking for some of you. You may need to unhinge a little and rethink the way you structure your rules, the layout of your home, the way you interact with your kids, and the way you see yourself as an adult. Start looking for opportunities to engage with your kids, your surroundings, and have fun. Don’t think of this as yet one more to do thing on your mom or dad to do list.
Think of this as living.
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