Resolve to Get Your Kids Moving
Family fitness is one of the basic ingredients in a healthy family and here are some ideas on getting yours in gear.
You’ve bought your kids toboggans, hockey sticks, and cross-country skis. You’ve signed them up for indoor soccer, swimming lessons, and gymnastics classes. You’ve told them all about the benefits of physical fitness. In fact, you’ve done everything possible to encourage your kids to put down the TV remote and get physically active. Or have you?
Most fitness experts agree that there’s a world of difference between telling kids about the benefits of being physically active and showing them that fitness is a priority in your own life. If you’re not physically active yourself, your words are likely to lose their impact. Bottom line? You have to be prepared to walk the talk.
One of the most important reasons for pursuing physical fitness with your children is that it is one of the key ingredients in weight problems. Girls, in particular, have weight problems. Perhaps this is mostly because of the unrealistic female media images we all see.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 32% of girls between 9 and 17 are truly overweight with boys trailing not far behind. Yet, some weight gain is a normal and necessary part of development. Girls need a minimum of about 17% body fat to begin to menstruate, and with the onset of puberty, girls often grow wider before they shoot up a few inches and thin out. At the opposite end of this spectrum is a growing number of cases of anorexia and bulimia.
Getting started. You don’t have to sign your kids up for boot camp in order to do your parental duty, however. In fact, that’s one sure way to doom your family fitness program to failure! A far better approach is to come up with a list of different fitness activities that your family could enjoy together and to find ways to work fitness into your schedules on a regular basis. (The experts agree that you should be exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes at a time at least three times each week.)
Here are some tips on becoming a more active family:
Make it fun. As with anything else in life, variety is the key to making your family fitness program enjoyable. Exercising to the same Tae Bo tape day after day isn’t likely to hold an eight year old’s attention, but weekly trips to the local swimming pool, rollerblading arena, and indoor baseball diamond likely will.
Head for the park. What do you get when you combine a park and a van full of people? A terrific workout, that’s what! Who says fitness has to be boring-or super-serious? Throw around a frisbee (yes, even in January!) Play a game of tag. As long as you’re moving your bodies vigorously enough to get your hearts beating faster, you’re exercising.
Join a club. Think about joining a fitness club. Fitness clubs can accomodate both children and adults. The best of them are designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages. “They are a great way to meet other families—something that adds to the fun of being active.” Just be sure that it is conveniently located so that the trip itself is not daunting.
Go for a walk indoors. Don’t skip your walk just because the weather’s bad outside. Take your family fitness program indoors! You can either walk around your local mall or head for some spot that’s a little more inspiring: even strolling through a museum can be a fitness activity, according to Neporent. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing while you’re walking, as long as you’re moving quickly enough to get some benefits out of your workout.
Children’s Ability by Age
Parents wonder what type of exercise is appropriate for their age child. Here is a general guideline for children furnished by the American Pediatric Association.
Babies don’t need exercise classes. Infants naturally move with the same kinds of movements found in exercise tapes. Parents can also move baby’s legs and arms in simple movements such as bicycling baby’s legs or patty cake with arms and hands.
Toddlers really don’t need a scheduled exercise program or specialized equipment. At that age, they are constantly squirming, crawling, running, turning over and more! For children under 5, the most beneficial activities emphasize arm and leg movement.
By age five, physical activity should be part of your child’s lifestyle. Children under the age of six generally don’t have the skills for organized sports. Only 84 percent can throw a ball and only 63 percent can catch it. For these children, the best kind of exercise is active play.
Six- to nine-year-olds generally like to exercise. They want to do it and are naturally active. However, structured gym classes may be too regimented for some children and may turn kids off of phys ed.
By around seven, most kids have developed motor skills they need for organized sports. But they still have a short attention span, so don’t make them play for longer periods of time than they want to.
Around 11- to 12-years-old, by the time students have finished sixth grade, they have developed most of the agility and coordination they will ever have. Exercise should be firmly established as part of their play and relaxation habits.#