No matter how young or old someone is, being active is an important part of staying healthy. As any parent can attest, TV, video games, and cell phones are like siren’s calls to children. More and more children are spending unhealthy amounts of time in front of the screen, rather than getting outside to play. We’d like to offer a few suggestions to encourage your child to get outside and play!
The Benefits of Physical Activity
Children, especially young children, are exuberant and love to run around and play. But as they grow older, it becomes more difficult to get enough exercise. Kids Health mentions several factors that contribute to a decrease of physical activity, including school, busy families, and feeling like they aren’t good at sports. So why is it important for us, as adults, to encourage children to continue be active?
With the increase of sedentary activities, childhood obesity is becoming a major concern of many health care providers. One of the best ways for your child to control his or her weight is to be physically active. When combined with a healthy diet, sports and play help your child burn excess calories. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercise is also an excellent way to reduce the risk of heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Play, whether outside or inside, is one of the ways in which children explore the world and learn about their bodies. Babies will rock their bodies, kick, and grasp at items placed before them. If you look into a preschool room, toddlers love to dance to music, do finger plays, and run around playing tag or with a ball. All of these activities, and more, are great ways for younger children to improve their bodily awareness. Not only that, but they help develop large and small motor skills, improve hand-eye coordination, and affect coordination, posture, and flexibility.
As your child grows, continued exercise confers other benefits. Gymnastics, running, climbing, and dancing are examples of activities that help strengthen muscles and bones. Beyond physical benefits, a healthy, active lifestyle contributes to better mental health and a more positive outlook on life. The CDC reports that regular physical activity can help children develop learning and judgement skills, reduce their risk of depression, and may improve sleep.
Types of Exercise
There are different types of exercise and each confers different benefits. What’s great about exercise, especially for children, is that play often involves more than one type of activity. The CDC recommends that children and adolescents get about 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Here are the different kinds of benefits and a few examples of each:
- Aerobic activities increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping, carrying oxygen to your muscles. They range from low to high intensity and are meant to be sustained for a period of time. Aerobic exercises that children can do include biking, dancing, tag, and soccer.
- Muscle-strengthening activities are designed to keep muscles strong and healthy. These exercises work muscles against some kind of resistance, such as your own body weight. Some muscle-strengthening activities for younger children are playing on a jungle gym or climbing. Older children can do push- or pull-ups.
- Bone-strengthening exercises help build and maintain bone density, which is especially important in children and older individuals. A few examples include running, skipping rope, basketball, and tennis.
Remember that any activity should be age appropriate and variable. Just like you get bored with the same activities every day, so do children. By offering them variety, you can help ensure that they’ll stay interested in playing. Keep in mind, too, that they don’t need to get all 60 minutes in one session. With school, homework, and other activities, breaking up exercise into multiple session can actually help ensure that your child gets at least 60 minutes of activity.
Ways to Encourage Your Child to Play and Be Active
Just like you should vary your child’s activities, you should also help encourage them to stay active. You play a pivotal role in supporting your child’s interest in getting and staying active, especially as they age. Here are 5 tips to help motivate your child to get out and play:
- Be a role model. This is perhaps the most important tip. Similar to trying and eating healthy foods, if your children see you engaging in and enjoying physical activity then they will be more inclined to engage in physical activities. Showing your child that activities are fun, you can encourage your child to play on their own and with others.
- Play with your child. It is a great opportunity to spend time with your child doing something you both enjoy. Whether it is playing at a park or learning a new sport, take the opportunity to play together. You can also get the entire family involved.
- Choose appropriate activities. Young children don’t necessarily need to be lifting weights or doing pull-ups. They can incorporate aerobic, bone-, and muscle-strengthening activities into their play that is appropriate for their age, such as running, jumping rope, or dancing. Older children would probably get bored playing tag, so getting them involved in sports is a good way to keep them active. The most important thing here is to choose an activity that is fun and healthy.
- Provide a safe environment. You might be wary about letting your children run around the neighborhood and that is perfectly acceptable. If you are encouraging your children to play, you want to make sure to provide them with a safe environment. That includes the place where they play and any equipment or toys they play with. You’ll also want to ensure that their clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
- Don’t over-extend. Make sure your children know to listen to their bodies. If something starts to hurt, let them know that it is ok to slow down or stop. They shouldn’t push themselves until the point of exhaustion or dehydration. Help them learn to listen to their bodies so that they can have fun without injuring themselves or others.
Not all children are as willing or able to be active as others. If your children are reluctant or engage in activities they find difficult, be positive and offer some praise. You want to build your children’s self-confidence. Even children with disabilities can be active. Speak to a pediatrician about what activities would be appropriate for your child.
Don’t get discouraged if your child is reluctant to play. Keep being a role model and engaging them in various forms of play. In the end, whether your child prefers casual activities or is a competitive sports player, they’ll still be healthier for spending less time in front of the screen.
Do you know any other benefits to being active not listen here? Or do you have a suggestion to help your children get active? Join the discussion in the comments below!