Keeping kids fit — it’s not an easy endeavor anymore. I was reminded of this as I hung out with some teenagers recently — all of whom sat huddled together, each on their own phones. It occurred to me that kids today are facing some major health problems that we never really saw when I was growing up.
Childhood obesity continues to increase at staggering rates. Diabetes, depression, and even poor performance in schools are linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices. But you can help your child develop healthy habits early that will lead to lifetime benefits.
Here are some tips to make it happen for your family:
1. Be a Good Role Model.
No one is perfect, but if your kids see you trying to lead a healthy, active life, it will send a message that good health is important to your family.
2. Focus on Fun.
You don’t have to call it “exercise,” just consider positive activities. Every child is unique. Let them explore different activities such as dance classes or sports until they find something they really love. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it!
3. Limit TV, video games and computer time.
I know, easier said than done, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than “two hours of daily media exposure.” If they are watching or clicking, make sure they take breaks to move around.
4. Make Dinner Time a Family Time.
The family that eats together, grows healthy together. Get your kids involved in cooking and planning meals! Teach them healthy options. Plus, when you eat together, there is less chance of children eating the wrong foods or over-snacking.
5. Choose Fitness Oriented Gifts.
What kid doesn’t want a pony? Just kidding. But consider gifts like jump ropes, mini trampolines, skates or blow-up sumo suits over yet another video game — anything that will encourage movement.
6. Get the Whole Family Moving.
Plan times for everyone to move together. Maybe that means a family surf session or a bike ride to the park. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the quality time!
7. Make Smart Snacking Easy.
Stock the fridge with grab-and-go healthy choices like fresh fruit, trail mix and yogurt. If your fridge and pantry are stocked with nutritious stuff, you won’t have to worry about keeping kids away from junk food.
8. Make Time for Sleep.
Tired kids (and adults) are cranky and moody. And being tired makes it harder to make good choices. Plus, sleepy people eat an average of 550 extra calories a day. Yikes!
9. Be Consistent.
The most important way to help your family is to stick with the plan. Stay consistent about foods, family exercise and bedtime.
10. Be Realistic.
Setting realistic goals is key to maintaining them. Think small steps, gradual changes and long-term benefits.