Every parent knows that enforcing a habit of daily exercise not only helps children in the short term but also sets up healthy habits that will benefit them for a lifetime. Yet in a world awash in smartphones, video games, and the pull of social media, getting your kids away from those screens is a serious challenge.
Check out these 6 tips to get your couch potato moving.
Frame Exercise As A Positive, Not A Punishment
A kid who feels that sports or other athletic activities are being forced upon him is likely to view exercise in a negative way. Being compelled to eat broccoli for the health benefits doesn’t make it taste any better, and being compelled to play football doesn’t necessarily make it fun.
The primary and most effective way to get your kids off the couch is to offer an activity that’s more compelling than the one-person shooter game. Your challenge, as a parent, is to figure out what that is.
If that seems like an impossible task, then your next best strategy may be to emphasize the importance of a healthy balance. Playing that multiplayer adventure is fine in moderation but it’s unhealthy in excess. Consider suggesting your child pause the game for an hour and take a bike ride with his friend, perhaps to pick up more batteries for the controllers. You’ll then be giving them a reason to go outside without dismissing the joy they get from the game.
Take Advantage Of Technology
Not every kid is a ball of unceasing energy. Some like to curl up for hours with video games, some like to curl up for hours with books. It’s pretty tough to tell your bookworm to stop reading and go out and play, but even bookworms need daily exercise.
It’s easier to create a balance if you can measure exactly how active your child truly is. Have your child clip on a pedometer or a high-tech activity tracker, such as a FitBit, to see how many steps she is logging on a daily basis. Then set a slightly higher goal.
If a child reaches her designated goal—say, 10,000 steps—you can then feel better about letting her chill for a few hours in a way that pleases her.
Choose Video Games Wisely
Not all video games are enjoyed from the deep cushions of the basement couch. Many game consoles come with (or have as options) motion sensors. Virtual tennis, golf, skiing, bowling, and Olympic-like shot-put video games are vigorous enough to make you sweat. Load up on those games (and fewer one-person shooter games) and watch how competitive play among friends turns video-playing into tournaments.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Few nuggets of wisdom apply to parenting better than the adage “be the change you want to see in the world.” As your children’s most important role models, your example is powerful. Despite your busy schedule, are you integrating into your day the exercise you need? Perhaps it’s time for an adjustment.
Join your children for a bike ride, a hike, a quick trip to the park. Show that you value exercise, and so should they.
Sneak Exercise Into Everyday Life
Exercise doesn’t just mean a full hour on the elliptical machine or a spin class that leaves you dripping with sweat. Exercise can be as simple as choosing to bike to the grocery store, rather than drive, to pick up a few things for dinner. A post-dinner walk around the block can be a fabulous perk-me-up, especially for children who have to spend the next hour or two sitting in a chair laboring over homework. Can they walk to or from school? Simplicity and consistency is the key.
Let Them Choose Their Sport
School sports are a healthy way to get your child involved in structured, scheduled athletics, but let them choose their favorite. Basketball may seem the ideal sport for your uber-tall child, but if your child doesn’t like it, you’ll be nagging them to spend an hour in the afternoon dribbling and shooting into the basketball net nailed over the garage door.
Be prepared to think outside the box. Consider martial arts, archery, fencing, dance, yoga, rock climbing, or gymnastics. Try different things until your child finds what he or she loves.