A sedentary lifestyle causes children to be unwell more often nowadays. Learn more about encouraging children to stay fit.
World Health Organisation statistics show that childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. The main culprits are the increased amounts of processed foods that children consume as well as a decreased rate of physical activity. Exercise plays a vital role in the human body. Apart from helping your child to shed those excess calories, it also boosts the immune system. However, how do you get a seven-year-old couch potato to become active?
Lead by example
Your child is an intelligent and highly observant individual. Telling him he needs to exercise is unlikely to have much of an effect on him. Especially if he sees you come home and slouch in front of the television. Your motto should be to 'practice what you preach'. If you demonstrate a commitment to keeping yourself fit, you will find it easier to convince your child that he needs to exercise as well.
A child is never too young to learn about the benefits of exercise. When your child is still a baby, you can take him out for a walk. Even though your child might be too young to walk by himself, he will get used to going outside the house. When he becomes a toddler, you can take him for bicycle rides. Purchase a child's bicycle seat and attach it to your own bicycle so that he can sit with you safely, as you pedal. These actions get a child used to the idea of exercising right from a young age.
Buy the right toys
When you buy toys for your child, try to select those that will encourage physical activity. Preferably buy toys like pogo sticks, skipping ropes, balls, etc. This will allow your child to get some physical exercise while still enjoying himself. You can also join in the games with your child. This will serve a dual purpose of allowing both you and your child to get some exercise.
You may not be able to refuse your child when he asks you to buy him a video game. However, you can look out for games that require your child to move around while he is playing them. There are a variety of interactive games available such as dance games where you have to mimic dance steps. If he prefers to watch movies, try bringing home videos of movies and shows that encourage the viewer to get up from the sofa and interact with them.
Limit television and computer time
It is very easy for a child to choose watching television or playing computer games over getting some exercise. Set firm ground rules about how many hours of television they can watch in a day as well as how much time they can spend using the computer. According to guidelines laid down by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), a child below the age of two should not have any exposure to television, computers, DVDs, video games, etc.
Children over two years of age should be allowed only one to two hours of television and computer time in a day. Also, the content should be moderated by a parent or caregiver to ensure that the child is watching content that is appropriate for his age group.
Encourage him to play a sport
At school, your child will have physical education as part of his curriculum. However, this would only be for a short period on a weekly basis. Check if your child's school offers training in athletics, and swimming, or has a coaching programme for team sports like football, hockey, volleyball, etc. Do not force him to participate. Instead, talk to him about the various options available and ask him if he would like to try them out. As he grows older, he may decide to focus on just one discipline. When he is younger though, encourage him to participate in as many physical activities as he likes. Just make sure he is not completely exhausted by so many activities.
Once your child shows an interest in physical exercise, there is no limit to the number of activities he can pursue. Getting your child to exercise from a young age is the key to enabling him to lead a healthy lifestyle as he grows older.