The secret to a healthy life is undoubtedly regular physical activity, a habit that is best inculcated in childhood. With today’s sedentary lifestyles posing many health hazards, it is only prudent that you include physical activity as a natural part of their daily routine. In a world of I- Pads and TV screens, here are 8 handy tips to make it possible:
Be a role model
There is nothing that explains the importance of physical exercise better to the child, than to see you practice it every single day. You couldn’t find a better way to motivate the child, than for him to see you take up an active hobby- cycling, hiking or any thing else that catches your fancy. Compare this to being on your couch during your free time and egging the child to be physically active! It also helps to make fitness a regular conversation topic at home and to discuss your own fitness goals with the child. In fact make exercise a family affair. Ride a cycle together or swim or jog together as a family. You could also consider taking a family vacation with physical activity in mind. A beach vacation where the focus is on swimming or a camp where the child can horse ride, all go a long way in making physical exercise an important part of life.
Make time for exercise
Between school, homework and the many extra curricular classes as they grow up, children often do not have the time for physical activity. Ensure that you make physical exercise a scheduled activity that is a part of their routine. Ensure that you allow for at least 1 hour of activity a day even if it is broken up into multiple 10-15 minute slots, when it comes to young children.
Make exercise fun
It is important that the child sees exercise as a fun activity and not something that is forced on him. Therefore it is important to choose activities that he will enjoy. An introvert may not particularly enjoy an aggressive sports game. Similarly, someone who doesn’t run very fast may not want to enroll in a track activity. It is best, therefore that you let the child try out a couple of activities and sign up for the ones he likes. It doesn’t matter whether the activity your child has chosen is swimming, ice-skating or soccer. The idea at this stage isn’t to force her into a sport she doesn’t like or even to create future Olympians. In fact it isn’t even essential for the child to choose an organized sport. As long as he is running and jumping chasing butterflies, for example, he is getting his daily dose of activity. Signing up activities with their friends may also be a good way to keep interest alive. Inviting a friend over for a planned physical activity or joining other families in the neighborhood for a group sport can all work very well.
Do not make winning the focus
Making winning the focus of every activity, is a sure fire way to take away all the fun. It is therefore important to keep reminding yourself, why you have enrolled the child for a particular activity, in the first place.
The same is true for comparing children with their peer group. Remember children develop the co ordination to run, throw, jump etc at different rates. Instead of comparing the child with another it is best to encourage the child to put in his best efforts and live up to his own potential. To this end, remember to appreciate the child’s efforts instead of the outcome. A lot of children give away a sport because they are afraid to make mistakes; mistakes often mean that they are yelled at and criticized. If done right, on the other hand, sports is in fact the best way to teach children important life lessons about failure.
By being enthusiastic about the child’s progress, you won’t just allow her to reap the benefits of physical exercise, you will also go a long way in helping her develop a healthy self esteem, that will give her not just the confidence to pursue sports but any other activities of her choice. This is not to say that you need to overdo the praise. In fact, a mix of encouragement and instruction works well. Watch out for coachable moments and you will see the child improve by his own volition.
Restrict screen time
Limiting screen time is one way to ensure that the child has time for physical activity. In any case, it is recommended that total screen time for children be no more than 2 hours a day. Implementing this rule, therefore can go a long way in freeing up time for physical activity.
Teach Kids the Benefits of Physical Exercise
It is important that kids know the benefits of physical exercise, for them to make it a part of their daily routine. So whether it is educating them about the physical benefits or how physical activity leads to improved brain function, ensure that you take time to speak to them. You could also tell them how physical activity is a big stress buster and see them take to a jog each time they feel overwhelmed with studies, as they grow up.
Indoor activities for times that you cannot step out
Those days when the Sun God is shining with all his might or when it is freezing cold, are not reasons enough for the child not to get his daily dose of physical activity. Sure, you may not be able to step out but you can help the kid exercise indoors by playing fun games such as freeze dance or play hallway soccer or even play Hula Hoop.
In a zeal to ensure that your child takes to physical activity, remember though not to overdo it. In fact start slow and teach your child to listen to their body. Also a balanced diet, along with physical activity is an absolute must have! Ever so often, we as parents are guilty of rewarding kids with junk food on successful completion of an activity. If at all there needs to be a reward, it may as well be more play time rather than junk food that adds to obesity.