After the cold, short days of winter, some families may have fallen into the habit of camping out in front of the television while the weather was dreary. But the warm weather is here to stay, and now is the time to get off the couch and go out and play on these gorgeous afternoons. Here are some ideas to help our patients and their parents spring into family fitness together.
A Pediatrician’s Perspective on Kids’ Fitness
During your child’s regular checkups, we will be comparing their height and weight, tracking their growth patterns, and discussing the proper amount of physical activity for your child based on his or her age and health conditions.
As a rule of thumb in this digital age when many children are sitting in front of a screen for too long instead of getting the exercise they need, we usually advise limiting computer and television time to 2 hours per day or less. We also generally discourage putting a television in your child’s bedroom.
However, children’s physical fitness is about more than measurements and rules like those. It’s about cultivating a healthy lifestyle for all of the years to come, so here is a guide to help your child stay on the right path.
The Many Forms of Kids’ Fitness
Organized sports are a great way for your child to learn about sportsmanship and teamwork, but they’re not the only path to a healthy childhood. Each child has different interests and abilities, so what is most important is that he or she actually gets the exercise, whether that’s on a soccer team or playing tag with siblings in the back yard.
It’s best to find physical activities your child really enjoys, because then he or she will want to do them, and do them every day. This sets the foundation for a lifelong love of physical activity and healthy choices.
Family Fitness is More Fun!
We know life as a parent is just about as busy as it gets, and it becomes easy to put your own exercise on the back burner. However, you have to think of your regular exercise as setting a good example for your child, especially if he or she is old enough to understand what you’re doing. Exercising also keeps you healthy and happy, which certainly benefits your children and your family life in general.
Making time for exercise doesn’t have to mean doing it alone. According to a recent survey by FitBit, 36% of parents engage in physical activity with their children weekly, and we know plenty of PedsEast families that are part of that statistic.
These families find physical activity to be a fun bonding experience that they actually look forward to doing. According to FitBit’s survey results, some top family fitness activities include walking, household chores, riding bikes and gardening.
How to Get the Family Moving
Want to try it and see for yourself? To get everyone moving, first decide on some physical activities you already enjoy doing together, as well as some you would like to try. Make sure these are activities that everyone in the family can participate in somehow, keeping in mind their age, size and health conditions.
Then, compare everyone’s schedules and plan one or two (or more!) times each week for family fitness. Even if it’s only half an hour or so, you can still do something as simple as going for a walk around the neighborhood. When you have more time for physical activity, like on a Saturday afternoon, take your usual walk to a fun location like the zoo.
Helpful hint: If you have really little ones, you may want to bring along a wagon or stroller to help them keep up when the rest of the family wants to keep going. Some younger kids can keep up with parents better on bikes or tricycles, and those will still keep everyone moving at their own pace.
If your children do better with games and incentives, make the walk into a scavenger hunt by challenging everyone to spot an out-of-town license plate, a certain breed of dog, or a certain color house. You can even set a goal of participating in a family fun walk in your community.
No Rain Checks Needed for Physical Activity
Spring and summer have their rainy days too, but there are still plenty of ways to get moving inside the house. Throw a family dance party and have the kids teach you the latest moves, while you teach them the classics. If you have a bigger group, you can split up and choreograph routines to perform and teach each other. The sillier the better, as long as you have a big enough room to give everyone their individual space and place breakables safely out of the way.
How Does Your Family Stay Fit?
Do you have your own fun family fitness ideas? We would love to hear them and have you share them with the PedsEast patient community. Leave us a note in the comments section!
If you ever have questions or concerns about whether your child is getting the proper amount of physical activity, feel free to ask your doctor at your next appointment. Let’s get moving!