With the new school year beginning, increased focus on academics and learning can shift a family’s attention from energetic, outdoor activities to a less active lifestyle of studying. Yet with the American Medical Association’s reporting that one in three American children is already overweight or obese, a sedentary lifestyle is a trend parents should help kids avoid.
The good news is that you can help keep your kids on track for healthy lives by promoting physical activity all year round. Exercise, which can include a child’s normal, energetic play, helps control weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, and promotes strong bone, muscle, and joint development. And as a virtual school family, you can use your flexible schedule to get outside and play when the sun is shining, even during the shorter days of autumn and winter. In recognition of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, why not begin a family health and fitness program? Here are some great ways to get started.
- Set a Positive Example
If your children see you glued to the game console or polishing off bags of chips, they’re likely to resist any efforts you make to sway them toward a healthy lifestyle. Make a plan for gradually introducing your family to healthier food and snack choices. Then show them you mean business by kicking off your own activity program first. If you lead by example, your kids will be more likely to join in the fun.
- Establish Healthy Goals
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that families that wish to enjoy healthy, active lives begin by striving to achieve the following numbers each day:
- 5 fruits and vegetables
- 2 hours or fewer of TV, videogames, and/or social media
- 1 hour of physical activity
- 0 sugar-sweetened drinks
According to Let’s Move, a program launched by the First Lady to help solve the childhood obesity problem, children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight. (Adults need 30 minutes of physical activity per day.) If this sounds like a lot, consider that 8- to 18-year-olds typically spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media including TV, computers, videogames, cell phones, and movies. Try the following ideas to get started and combat the electronics:
Integrate Exercise into Learning
- Give children toys that encourage physical activity, like balls, kites, and jump ropes.
- Take kids to places where they can be active, such as playgrounds, public parks, and community baseball fields or basketball courts. (Leave portable game devices at home!)
- Schedule time to do family activity, like having a park day, swim day, or bike day.
- Take a brisk walk together as a family several times per week.
- Limit TV and make a new house rule: no sitting still during commercials.
As a homeschooling parent or online school Learning Coach, you have unlimited opportunities for making learning an active experience! With a more flexible schedule, you can accommodate time for nature hikes, cycling trips, or museum treks as part of your daily learning activities. Or incorporate physical activity into math and literacy practice, all easily adaptable to the home classroom.
Keep It Fun!
Kids won’t volunteer to do an hour of sit-ups, leg lifts, or other dull, repetitive exercises. Keep them moving with activities they will enjoy, either structured or unstructured. Participating on a team or in individual sports counts, as does walking, bicycling, swimming, playing tag, and other playground activities. Visit Action for Healthy Kids to download 40 more tips for keeping your family active.
For additional resources and information on keeping kids healthy and fit through physical activity, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services online, and visit us again for more helpful tips throughout the month.
What wild and wacky ideas has your family tried to stay healthy and active? Please share your most successful suggestions in the comments.