We’ve all heard stories about professional athletes trying to mimic the movements of a baby and after an hour or so being completely exhausted. Before they walk, babies naturally get ready for that huge developmental step by constantly working their muscles: they wave their arms, pump their legs, roll over, pull themselves up, and generally never stay still.
Once kids start to walk, they are off and running and rarely slow down. Watch kids on the playground. They run, twirl, jump, and swing with exuberant energy. School age kids literally race from the building for recess and don’t quit until they have to return to class.
With all this activity, why should parents concern themselves with physical fitness for their kids? Aren’t youngsters active enough?
For a lot of children, sadly the answer is “no.”
The Sedentary Child and Obesity
By many estimates, today’s kids spend more than five hours a day in front of a screen — be it a television or computer. This means the time they spend being physically active is limited.
Obesity among children is on the rise, partly a result of the sedentary life embraced by so many of our children (the other culprit, of course, is poor diet). According to studies, obesity among children aged six to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years so that today more than 17 percent of our kids are considered overweight.
Overweight kids are at higher risk of developing health issues as they mature, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, and arthritis. What’s more, they may be teased or bullied and suffer from low self-esteem.
If these aren’t reason enough to encourage your kids to be physically active, there are more. Active kids sleep better, eat better, have strong bones (especially important for teenage girls), strong muscles and, best of all, feel really good about themselves.
Get the Kids Moving!
Parents, teachers, and other adults can encourage physical activity among children. What’s important is to keep the activity fun and age appropriate.
When the kids are small, play simple games of tag or stage races with them. As they get older, toss the ball around with them, or invite them to join you in a walk on the beach. The goal is to keep them moving, to keep it fun, and to set an example for them.
Physical fitness for kids should be part of a school’s curriculum, but should also be part of a parent’s involvement with their children. Sign the kids up for soccer, baseball, or any other team sport. If they don’t seem to like a particular sport, suggest something else.
If your child prefers bike riding or hiking to a team sport, encourage the activity. Join them on the trail.
Kids rarely refuse physical activity as long as it’s entertaining. The more they move, the more physically fit they will be.
And that’s a lifelong gift!