Obesity is one of the biggest health problems facing the western world. With childhood obesity rising in the United Kingdom, parents should be aware of the importance of keeping children active.
However, integrating exercise into everyday life can be a challenge. With technologically advanced computer games and slick television programs providing such rich experiences it can be difficult to get children to step away from the screen and exercise. It is useful for parents to have a range of activities in mind and to think how you can integrate exercise into everyday activities.
Set a Good Example
We all know exercise is good for us, but dragging yourself to the gym is daunting for most. As parents we should always remember that our children mimic our behaviour. We set the example that they will follow. Express a positive attitude towards exercise and your children will learn that it is a good thing to do. Laying this psychological foundation is the most important step to encourage an active lifestyle in your children.
Take Every Opportunity to be Active
If you are taking the kids to school, try walking rather than driving. If you use public transport, try getting off the bus or train one stop earlier and walking the last mile or so. This even applies to being out and about. If you’re in the shopping centre, take the stairs rather than the escalator. Small steps soon accumulate to help improve your and your children’s health and set good habits.
Invest in Exercise Equipment at Home
It may sound obvious, but by surrounding your children with toys and equipment that promote an active lifestyle means they can get active whenever they want. Having a swing or trampoline in the garden means they have a visual prompt to encourage them to get active more often when at home. Buy them a bicycle and helmet and they can use it to get about, rather than relying on the car.
Take an Active Interest in Sporting Events
If you express a passion for sports, your children will follow in your footsteps. Having a football team you support or watching the Tour de France is an excellent way to give your children positive role models. The success of Team GB at London 2012 and of Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Tour de France has introduced a new generation to positive sporting role models. Since 2012, athletics teams and cycling clubs nationwide have seen a sharp increase in members.
Not only can the family enjoying watching the sport together as a family, but your children will be more keen to try the sport out for themselves. Do not worry too much about gender differences. Most sports are unisex and these days it is perfectly acceptable for girls to be skateboarders and boys to be equestrians.
These small steps don’t require a huge lifestyle change but you will find they help to create the space and time to bring you together as a family and encourage your children to exercise more regularly, which will be enormously beneficial to their physical and mental well being.
Taja Anderson is an athletics coach for secondary school children in eastern England and parent of two. She helps encourage children across a range of ages to stay active and to develop a positive attitude to exercise. Last year, she purchased a great trampoline from www.jumpking.eu and now she is barely able to get her children to stop exercising.