In today’s screen culture it’s not always easy to get kids interested in exercising. For many children iPhones, iPads and video games are much more appealing than getting up and moving. The abundance of available (fun) technology for younger generations who don’t know a world without smart devices and cell phones can mean kids aren’t getting enough movement in their lives.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend kids engage in 60 minutes or more of physical activity everyday.
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of problems for children including obesity, heart disease and other chronic illness. According to the American Heart Association 51% of children will be overweight and 11% will be obese by 2030.
The good news? Adults have the power to influence how much kids exercise and help decrease childhood obesity. Health professionals and parents must work together to combat these staggering stats.
A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports: With technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access as children and teens go about their daily lives, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7 hours. Wow!
So what can we do to get kids more excited about exercise? Whether you’re a health and fitness professional, a parent or both these tips can help.
- Start small – If a child isn’t very active thrusting them into a daily 60 minute routine, or a slew of after school sports may not go over well. Initially it makes more sense to focus on small changes. Get help around the house with physical chores that require some some exertion like sweeping, vacuuming and raking leaves. Make an effort to go on family walks and get outdoors.
- Make it fun – Most kids have a short attention span, you must make exercise fun for them or they’ll quickly lose interest. Some children naturally gravitate towards organized sports like baseball, basketball or soccer; others would rather toss a ball around or take a nature hike. Make an effort to notice what excites the kids you’re working with (or parenting!) and don’t be afraid to act silly. Kids respond to a playful environment where they don’t feel intimidated.
- Empower and encourage – Provide acknowledgment! Just like kids need support for academics they need support to exercise. When kids efforts are noticed or praised they’ll want to continue the activity and are more likely to try others.
- Be an example – Whether you’re working with kids or you’re a parent you need to lead by example. When kids see that you’re excited about physical activity that helps foster those positive feelings in them. If you’re working with kids in a group setting or at home being mindful of watching your own “screen use” is important. Don’t pick up your phone, and scroll through email during this time. Concentrate on being engaged and kids are more likely to do the same.