This past winter, we banished the stroller for our 3-year old and made him join us walking his older brother to kindergarten. Even in the snow. Even on recycling day in Toronto when the huge bins line the narrow sidewalks. The school's only a block away, but it often felt like a trial with all the protesting. On really snowy days, my kindergartener would cry for the double stroller that was sold months prior. Walking to school was a small way to add more movement into our children's lives, so I stuck with it.
According to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine “Society is engineered, both physically and socially, to be sitting-centric.”More and more evidence is suggesting that all these sedentary behaviours in adults contribute to poor health including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
Although a guideline has not yet been developed to suggest how much sitting is too much, reducing the amount of time your child sits is a start towards decreasing sedentary habits that could follow them into adulthood.
We're all sitting too much.
Kids sit all day at school including the gym while getting instructions, on the commute to school, while eating meals, watching TV or playing with the iPad, building Lego, reading bedtime stories. Social activities involve going to the movies or sitting in the car on the way to an outing.
How To Encourage Physical Activities For Kids
Seven ways to encourage more physical activities for your kids:
1. Set Timers
I'm a blogger. I sit a lot. Sometimes, I even stay seated when I know I need a pee break. It's because once I walk out of the zone, I'll lose track of the momentum. So I've started setting timers on my iPhone. This has helped me remember to get up and move rather than get sucked into the Facebook vortex.
Using a timer with your child is a great way to set parameters with media use. For kids who are too tired or reluctant to engage in physical activity, this strategy provides time limits.
2. Make A Weekday Schedule
It doesn't need to be complicated but being predictable helps children know what is expected of them. Feed them an energy boosting healthy snack afterschool or summer camp. Then head outside for unstructured play, or even do yoga on the iPad.
At least once a week, my family heads out to a park to play. If the weather is right, we pack dinner and eat picnic style. This routine helps my husband and I get outside to play more, too!
3. Sign Up For An Extracurricular
I'm not one to advocate enrolling children in many structured activities but consider one physical sport per season. If possible, choose an activity that will take them outdoors to help them spend more time in nature.
4. Plan One Outdoor Activity
Remember how I mentioned creating a predictable schedule? Do this on the weekend, too. Choose one outdoor activity each weekend.
Possibilities include visiting local conservation areas, visiting a farmer's market, going on a bike ride, taking transit downtown and walking around a new area. Think about which day is best for your family and write it down.
We prefer Saturdays because Sunday is usually reserved for laundry, baths, lunch prep, and some relaxation.
5. Meal Plan
Whether you scrawl it on a piece of paper, use a chalkboard, or sign up for an online meal planning membership, meal planning helps your family eat healthier meals at a table. Eating healthy contributes to feeling better, and be more physically active.
Home-cooked meals tend to get eaten at the family table while takeout is more likely consumed in front of a TV which encourages too much sitting after the meal.
6. Learn A New Skill
Have you always wanted to take up canoeing, hiking, or skiing? Show your children how brave you are by taking up a new physical hobby as a family. This may even count as #3 if you are all taking lessons!
7. Move More
Park farther away at the mall, walk or bike to the park, take transit for a family outing (think of all those stairs, and downtown strolling), and jump in the lake for a swim.
If you're stuck for ideas, you can also try one of my eight favourite activities to help young children appreciate nature. Focus on finding ways to get your child (and you) moving every single day.