These days, majority of kids are not getting enough physical activity on a regular basis. Some kids are not into sports and that is ok, but it doesn’t mean that they should be glued to a computer, tablet or phone and fall into the habit of a sedentary lifestyle. Like adults, kids are constantly facing high levels of stress, which can lead to making unhealthy choices and creating unhealthy routines and habits.
Here are my TOP 10 Tips for Family Fitness this Fall
1. Lead By Example
Children learn from example and you are the primary example. Information is available from so many sources, from the Internet and television, to their peers, teachers, and coaches, but parents have the greatest power to teach their children how to make healthy choices and lead healthy lives emotionally, physically and mentally. SHOW them what an active and fit lifestyle is all about. If you spend your nights sluggishly watching television, while eating unhealthy snacks, you’re kids will see this behaviour and likely replicate it. Be a role model by incorporating physical activity into your everyday life. When you can, walk instead of drive. Climb the stairs rather than wait for the elevator. Regularly participate in fun physical activities that you enjoy and let your kids both see and hear about how much you enjoy them.
2. Build a Schedule and Stick To YOUR Routine
Create a calendar, place it somewhere that everyone in the family can see it and schedule two family activity days per week. The family activity could be something as simple as an after dinner walk around your neighbourhood or a hike or bike ride or playing a sport in the backyard or park. Craft your own rules or guidelines for whatever your family activity might be – think about it less as a duty and more about physical play.
3. Keep It Simple
Focus on fun! For many adults the idea of doing a fitness class or activity can cause anxiety; kids can feel your resistance and possibly start to mirror your feelings. Keep things simple and easy. Play catch with a ball or Frisbee to work on hand-eye coordination; go for a bike ride to work on balance and core strength; play bocce ball to work on body awareness and determine how much strength is needed in order to replicate the ball toss or use sidewalk chalk to sketch out your own hopscotch grid – hopping on one foot isn’t that easy! – and builds body awareness and aids in creating symmetry in the body as well as working on remembering rights and lefts.
4. Positive Feedback
Exercise and movement can be intimidating to adults – the same is true for children. Un-coordinated or out-of-shape children can be self-conscious about their physical skills; peer pressure, embarrassment or teasing could be adding undue stress to their lives. Offering words of encouragement and support can do a lot to boost self-confidence. Continuing to make family fitness activities a fun and enjoyable time spent together can also be a way to practice certain physical skills, which in turn will help your child improve upon the skill. Nagging or negative comments don’t work as motivators and will only serve to make your child feel bad and possibly avoid physical activities further. Celebrate the small victories – set small goals; encourage the child to reach those goals such as hiking or biking further than last time. And above all acknowledge the effort. Choosing to be active or working toward improving a skill is more important than only focusing on the final outcome. Build confidence and teach your children to enjoy being physically active.
5. Bring a Friend
Most people love to hangout with friends – it can make almost any experience that much more enjoyable. Kids are no different – so invite a buddy along for a bike ride, hike or Frisbee toss. If your child is more likely to join a team with a friend by her, side talk to her parents and see if you can sign them up together. However, don’t forget to keep the emphasis on having fun, learning new skills and staying fit and healthy. Don’t let competition and winning creep in as the focal point as this may cause anxiety and create negative feedback, which could bar your child from future fitness activities.
6. Positive Trends
Some people like the idea of being on the forefront of what is cool or trendy. Utilize their desire to be cool as a motivating factor to stay fit and active. Ensure that the activity they want to do is safe and encourage them to pursue the activity that suits their sense of self and style.
There are many ways to motivate kids to be healthy and active; one way is to educate them on the benefits of living an active lifestyle. Instilling a love of physical activity can help kids build healthy habits that will last into adulthood.
Regular exercise can help kids:
• Build strong muscles and bones
• Sleep better
• Increase self confidence and self esteem
• Build body awareness
• Feel more awake and alert
• Feel more positive about life
• Understand the relationship between healthy eating habits, fitness activities and feeling their best
Remind kids that their body is like a machine and that you only get out what you put in. Knowing why physical activity is so beneficial can provide an important boost.
8. Find Activities, which Interest THEM!
Take turns choosing the family fitness activity. The quiet, nature-loving observer may choose a hike; the adventure seeker may vote for a climbing wall, whereas a more sedentary child may suggest a journey to and from a specific destination that they have in mind like a museum or bookstore by walking or biking there together. By empowering your child to make suggestions they are learning to think about what it is they would like to do as well as take into consideration what the rest of the family may want to do as well.
Remember that everyone is different; some children may love field sports and playing on a team may be a perfect fit for them. But just because your child is not drawn to play soccer, hockey or baseball does not mean that individual sports might not click for them. Try swimming, track and field or skiing instead. There are lots of ways to incorporate fitness into your family’s life.
9. Meal Involvement
Family fitness activities are an important part of building a long lasting healthy lifestyle, but just as important as movement is the relationship your kids have with food and nutrition. Get your kids involved in every aspect of a meal: plan, prepare and eat together!
10. Gradual Changes
All changes should be introduced gradually over time in order to ensure that no one is overwhelmed. Take it slow so that the changes are being integrated into your family lifestyle and will therefore last a lifetime. Try and make each step a positive one and before long fitness will become a fun part of your kids’ lives.