Regular physical activity is an important part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Along with creating healthy eating habits early in childhood, encouraging kids to be active and to exercise regularly will establish healthy patterns for the rest of their lives.
Kids need around 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day to stay healthy. One hour a day being physical active may seem like a lot, but most kids have a lot of time outside of school hours and on weekends to get active. Problem is that kids are choosing to use that spare time for sedentary activities such as playing video games or watching TV.
The National Heart Foundation has found that eight out of ten Australian children fail to meet minimum national guidelines of at least 60 minutes physical activity per day. “Based on the latest Australian Health Survey findings, the Heart Foundation’s analysis found that children aged 5 to 17 years are spending at least 1 hour and 20 minutes watching TV/DVD’s and 20 minutes playing electronic games each day.”
And this one hour a day of activity doesn’t need to happen in one go. Riding or walking to school, playing sport after school or on weekends, taking a dance class – all these can add up to at least one hour a day doing some form of physical exercise.
Here are some easy ways for kids to get active each day (and, remember, parents need to get active too and be a good role model for their kids. If we don’t turn off the TV and get outside the play, we’re not providing much motivation for our kids!):
- Turn off the TV and turn on the music instead – an impromptu dance in the living room with the whole family gets everyone moving, and is also a lot of fun.
- Dump the DVDs and video games for birthday presents and instead buy gifts like skipping ropes, balls, Frisbees, bikes, kites and sports equipment.
- Limit TV, video games and computer time to two hours or less per day.
- Walk or ride to school.
- Encourage kids to join a local sports club or join a team at school.
- Be active as a family – go bike riding together, walk to the park, swim at the beach, go trampolining.
- Get the kids involved in gardening, washing the car, even cleaning the house.
- Teach your kids the sports you liked to play when you were a child.
- Schedule ‘play dates’ with your child’s friends, with the emphasis on play and activity – kick a ball in the park, play tag, hula hooping.