Kids need love, attention, good food, fun and exercise. They are all vital ingredients for a healthy, happy childhood. But how do you know if your child is getting enough exercise, and the right type of exercise?
In the United States, obesity is up among adults and children–a sad indication that inactive and overweight children may become inactive and overweight adults. And studies have shown that cholesterol levels among children are on the rise, which is not a good sign for their diets or their exercise levels. In fact, a large percentage of five-to-eight-year olds exhibit at least one risk factor for coronary heart disease, according the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But kids get exercise at school, right? Maybe. Unfortunately, in an era of budget cutting in school reform, physical education classes at school are often neglected or dropped from the curriculum. In comparison, Japanese children spend 57% more time in physical education than American kids.
The responsibility for seeing kids get enough exercise must fall on the parents, it seems. Children learn their behaviors by observing and modeling the behavior of those closest to them, so it follows that parents have a great opportunity to instill an interest in exercise and fitness though example.
It’s important to get kids interested in exercise at a young age, so that they will carry it through their adult years. But with busy parents and busy children, it means that the adults have to make the time for exercise, and make it a priority. With diversions such as computer games and television, kids can easily spend entire afternoons inside the house when they can be outside. It would be better for parents to promote exercise for their kids rather than encouraging them to watch TV all the time.
Participation in sports is not only fun, but it is also healthy, leads kids to work together, and can build self-confidence. In addition to exposing kids to sports and hobbies they can enjoy their entire lives, parents have the opportunity to use exercise time together as “quality time.” Rather than plunking your tyke down in front of the television, get him to help you with the yard work. Spend some time throwing a softball in the back yard, sharing old baseball stories. Do stretching and relaxation exercises together (maybe your kid can teach you how to somersault again!)
Exercise starts early
You can’t start too early. Parents of infants can walk their children using a stroller. Those who like to jog can use the “babyjoggers,” special strollers designed to let adults take their kids along. Bikers can purchase special bike seats for their toddlers, as well as helmets for protection, and take them along on a Sunday afternoon.
Kids who are old enough can join adults for a walk, jog or bike ride around the neighborhood. Remember, exercise should be fun. Let kids try out different sports, and don’t push then into any sports they are not ready for or interested in. Let them discover for themselves what they like or don’t like.
Another recommendation: expose your children to sports that they can enjoy their entire lives. Walking, hiking, jogging, tennis and swimming are all good examples. Be involved with your children’s activities. Take them to their little league games and watch them. Showing them you are interested means a lot to a child.