Encouraging Lifelong Fitness in Kids

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that children have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.  The activity should include aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening.  As working parents, it is often difficult to find the time or energy  to get your kids active.  Here are a few tips on getting your children active:

1. Make it fun.

The best way to get your children active is to make it fun.  As a kid, I used to LOVE playing outside. I would spend hours riding my bike, climbing trees and playing tag with my neighborhood friends.  I didn’t call it exercise; I called it play, and I almost never got tired of it.  Nowadays, there are so many distractions that can keep our children from developing the joy of active play.  It’s easier to plop your kids in front of the television or put an iPad in their hands than to worry about their safety outdoors.  What I have learned from my own children, however, is that they still have that innate desire to play.  Even if they don’t say so, I can tell by how often I have to stop them from running through the house and jumping on their beds.

Where possible, allow your children the opportunity to get outside.  Invest in scooters, bikes and skates – just don’t forget a helmet! If your child isn’t interested in toys with wheels, go exploring through your neighborhood allowing your children to get moving with a purpose.  My youngest loves to search for acorns.  He also loves it when we take walks through our local park and I let him lead the way.  If you have a child with a competitive spirit and you’re up to it, challenge him/her to a short foot race. I regularly race my kids to the car in a safe parking lot or up a short flight of stairs.  If you’re like me, you’ll lose, but at least it will get their heart rate up and encourage that love of active play that they will carry into adulthood.

2. Enroll in active extracurricular activities.

Since my boys were three, they have been enrolled in martial arts.  While we initially chose  karate for the discipline and self-defense, we quickly learned about the endurance and strength it takes to practice the art.  Each lesson starts with a work out that includes obstacle courses, running, push-ups, jumping jacks and squats.  By practicing martial arts, my children are engaging in over an hour of aerobic exercise and strength training each week.

As your children get older, the world of athletic extracurriculars will expand.  Whether it’s basketball, lacrosse, football, dance or karate, extracurricular activities allow your children a fun and productive way to get moving! Boys and Girls Clubs and other community centers make extracurricular activities affordable for any budget.  They also enable you to take a break while your children’s instructors do the hard work!

3. Walk when possible.

As a former city kid, I always had opportunities to walk.  So much so that I dreamed of the day that I would be able to drive.  I started taking public transportation alone when I was ten and that was pretty much my primary mode of transportation until I was 18.  Now, as a resident of the suburbs, it isn’t always as easy to stay active.  I can drive pretty much everywhere and the longest walks I get are across a big parking lot.  I find it increasingly important to find opportunities to walk when I am able.

Whether its parking a little farther away from the grocery store or waking up early to allow yourself the time to walk your kids to school in the morning, you can find a way to squeeze in that extra exercise for you and your child.  I knew a mom who lived far away from our elementary school but would park a few blocks away just to get a walk in with her daughter each morning.  She was always sweating when she arrived but her and her daughter looked energized and ready to start the day.  If walking your kids to or from school isn’t an option, you can encourage your child to get in extra steps by avoiding short cuts.  Take the long way to the produce section of Target or park on the opposite end of the mall when taking a trip to Macy’s.  Even if you have a tendency to rush, allowing yourself the extra time to take your time will have lasting effects on the health of your children.

4. Don’t use bad weather as an excuse.

I have been guilty of this one myself.  If it’s raining, cold or too hot, I am tempted to take an ‘L’ on the day.  However, just because you are stuck indoors doesn’t mean you can’t get active.  With the surge of indoor play areas like Pump it Up, Sky Zone and Monkey Joe’s, kids have the option to jump and play for hours in the safety of the indoors.  In addition, certain dancing and sports video games allow children the opportunity to get active while staring at a screen.  If indoor play areas and interactive video games aren’t in your budget, you can also get your children active at home.

I asked Certified Fitness Professional Troy Brown of Tru2Fitness, LLC for advice on getting your children active indoors.  Troy recommends encouraging your children to do push-ups and squats to work their upper and lower body.  If space permits, he also recommends jump ropes for aerobic exercise and resistance bands to build strength.  Troy also notes that everyday household items can be used as weights for more strength training.  A 16oz bottle of water is 1lb and a 24oz bottle is 1.5lbs. With some creativity, you can design a quick workout plan that can get you and your kids active even on a rainy day! You can follow Troy on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest @tru2fitness for more great tips on how to get active!

5. Lead by example.

“Adulting” is hard.  After a long day of work, I usually want to put my feet up, bury my nose in a good book and check out.  Likewise, some weekends, I would be perfectly content to just curl up in my bed and binge watch mindless television.  The thing is, my kids are always watching.  If I want to set a good example for them, I have to practice what I preach about healthy habits, including exercise.  For Mother’s Day 2014, I bought myself a brand new bicycle. What started off as a few circles around the block, turned into a lifestyle for me.  I grew to adore cycling.  It wasn’t long before I started taking my kids with me on my bike rides through local parks and our neighborhood. They absolutely loved it!

During the off season, I joined our local gym to stay in shape and made sure it had a kids’ space designed to keep them active while I work out.  The space has a jungle gym and trampolines.  They love it so much they ask me to go to the gym.  This helps hold me accountable because my kids notice when we haven’t been in awhile.  Family friendly gyms like the YMCA and Lifetime Fitness offer opportunities to get active with your kids. My husband regularly takes our boys to the Y for Open Gym to run around and shoot hoops. For them, it just feels like play but they all come home sweaty with calories burned.

 

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

One thought on “Encouraging Lifelong Fitness in Kids

  1. Wonderful and insightful advice! We don’t want our children (and grandchildren) to become couch potatoes. Since it’s so much easier to plop children in front of a TV set, it takes real commitment and dilligence to allow and encourage outdoor playtime.

    Like

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