Kids today suffer from the extremes of a society that wants too much, has too little and never settles for just right. Self-regulation, ideally learned in the first 4-5 years of life, and possibly even earlier, has become an important but forgotten goal of child rearing.
Both too little exercise and too much exercise can have deleterious effects on the health of our children. In this post we take up too little exercise and its obvious effects.
Too many tout exercise as the great panacea for the obesity epidemic. Unrealistic and untrue. And, similarly, the lack of exercise, is a poor excuse for why the pounds pile on.
It’s getting tougher to convince parents that their children need physical activity everyday to stay healthy. I start with the four basic flavors: aerobic exercise to get the heart rate up, muscle strengthening, bone building and flexibility. Blank stares are often their response.
When I hear, “We don’t belong to a gym,” or “Our treadmill is really old,” I take a deep breath and plough on. “Gyms and competitive leagues are not necessary. You can make all of this can happen right at home.”
Not difficult; not costly. Here are four ways you can do to get your kids moving:
Chores. Get kids involved in chores. Cleaning their rooms, doing laundry, washing dishes, setting and clearing the table, and even cooking. How about shoveling the walks, raking leaves, tending the garden? All are activities where they are not sitting around watching TV or on the computer.
And they all have the benefit of creating skills that are life-long. Two-for-one.
Create obstacle courses. Need something more challenging? Devise obstacle courses in the house. Time the kids for how long it takes them to run up and down stairs (or around the play area). Create barriers to jump over or run around one way and then the other. Keep a chart for how many times they can do it in 15 minutes and mark it every day.
Simply fun. Buy a rope–clothesline or the “real thing” and learn all the ways one can learn to jump rope–forwards, backwards, cross hands, double dutch, and more. This is great exercise and lots of fun. Lots of different tricks to learn.
Together time with TV. Find exercise programs on TV and do them together. From yoga to Pilates, from Zumba to Brazillian butt workouts, there’s lots to choose from.
I speak from experience. When I was 13 years old, I was in middle school. I decided I no longer wanted to be dressed in “husky” sizes. I started my own diet. But the key was that I spent 30 minutes everyday doing all the crazy exercises I learned in gym in my room. Bicycling with my butt in the air, jumping jacks, toe touches, waist twists, arm circles, and just running in circles in the small room I shared with my sister. It sounds bizarre, but it worked.
Exercise doesn’t have to be done in a fancy gym. It doesn’t need an organized league. It can (and should) be built into everyday life. What it takes is a little creativity and commitment to doing the right thing for and with our children. Putting structure in their days and teaching them to regulate basic and necessary functions goes a along the way to keeping them healthy……..and happy.