Unlike their parents, today's kids often forgo sandlot baseball or games of tag for much more sedentary fare like video games or surfing the Internet. While video games and Internet access aren't lacking in value, many parents would prefer their kids be more active.
Though it can be difficult to get kids off the couch, there are ways parents can help their kids live and embrace a more active lifestyle, which can have benefits both now and down the road.
- Make it a team effort. Parents who are concerned their kids aren't getting enough daily exercise should ask themselves if they're getting enough exercise themselves. Kids aren't the only ones who need daily exercise. A good way to encourage kids is to join them. Make daily physical activity a team effort. Kids don't have to join Mom and Dad at the gym. Instead, go for a nightly walk after dinner, or make time to play catch in the yard. Kids often take cues from their parents even if their parents aren't aware. Parents who exercise every day are much more likely to have kids who exercise every day as well. Set a positive example for kids and include them in your own fitness routine whenever the opportunity arises.
- Minimize television time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends older kids watch no more than two hours of television per day. But as any parent knows, most kids average much more than two hours of television per day. To decrease that tube time, parents can take televisions out of their kids' bedrooms, instead putting televisions only in the common rooms which will also allow parents to more closely monitor what their kids are watching.
- Encourage extracurricular activities. While parents might find it hard to believe, today's kids, even with all the video games and additional gadgets, still get bored. Boredom might be contributing to sedentary lifestyles. To combat boredom, parents should encourage extracurricular activities that get kids off the couch. Whether it's participating in team sports, joining the local or school theater program or even getting a job, parents should encourage kids to do more after school than come home and turn on the television or play video games.
- Emphasize activity instead of exercise. Many adults associate exercise with going to the gym or running on the treadmill, both of which are tough to get excited about. Kids might be equally indifferent and less enthusiastic about exercise. Instead of emphasizing exercise, encourage kids to be active. Being active doesn't have to entail playing a sport or doing any calisthenics. Instead, an active lifestyle is one that's not spent idling the hours away lounging. Encourage kids to get outdoors and pursue interests other than video games or television shows.
- Express interest in kids' activities. Parents should express interest in their kids' activities. If kids like to fish, ask how they fared after their most recent trip to the neighborhood fishing hole. When parents express an interest in their kids' activities, kids are more likely to embrace those activities, something that's especially beneficial if the activities in question are ones that get kids off the couch.