Too often, fitness is something we reluctantly revisit from time to time, but fitness should be a way of life shared by the whole family.
At the risk of sounding like a cranky old grandpa, the reality is that kids no longer play the way they used to. Our digital world draws them indoors and into sedentary modes for hours at a time. TV, video games, and computers have replaced physical activities, like tag and hide-and-go-seek. They are losing the benefits of exercise, such as a faster metabolism, greater energy and focus, and weight maintenance.
The great news is that small changes in activity can make big differences in children because the body is still growing and can respond quickly to any physical activity! If you adopt fitness as a mindset, you’ll find many opportunities to create fun, easy physical activities for kids that the whole family can participate in. Think about places you frequent where you could replace a drive with a walk. Make anything a finish line, even a loop around the yard, and race together to get there. Jump over puddles and off of big rocks, or see how close you can get to dunking a basketball. (Don’t worry, laughing at yourself burns calories and counts as exercise too!) Buy a jump rope and teach your kids your old jumping games and rhymes. Sharing the activities together helps them build a fitness mindset of their own.
Remember: your child doesn’t need to be an athlete to be physically active. Ideally, children should have one hour of physical activity every day to gain the benefits of exercise, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Twenty minutes here and there quickly adds up, so get creative and use those small pockets of time throughout the day. (And don’t rely on gym class at school. It’s important to take responsibility at home.)
A combination of aerobic and strengthening activities will yield maximum benefits. Aerobic activities result in better breathing, a healthier heart and increased endorphins, which will give your child (and you) an overall happy feeling. Strengthening activities build muscles and bones, and decrease body fat. Kids shouldn’t be lifting free weights, but every kid is capable of lifting or pushing his or her own body weight.
There are plenty of indoor activities that can be incorporated into an active lifestyle. Lifting and carrying groceries, laundry, or pet food are examples of strengthening activities that kids can easily do. An afternoon raking leaves is a great aerobic activity (and jumping into a big pile is healthy too). And, believe it or not, there are even great video games and apps that incorporate physical activity if kids are stuck indoors. The key is to look for opportunities that fit your family.
Other great, safe indoor activities for children include:
- Push ups
- Free Squats
- Jumping jacks
- Walking knee raises
- Walking lunges
- Triceps dips
- Frog leaps
Try setting a timer for 1-2 minutes at a time and seeing how many reps they can do of each exercise. If you’re watching TV together as a family, jump up during commercials and see how many squats or jumping jacks everybody can do. Let kids record their progress, which helps fuel motivation.
The most important thing is to get moving together. You’ll be happier and healthier for it now, and you’ll give your kids a healthy mindset for life.