My children are in perpetual motion.
My eight year old son slides down the stairs on his stomach, hits the bottom floor, grabs a ball and begins bouncing if off the walls. My two year old daughter climbs every surface she can find and wiggles off every chair I put her on.
Watching them, reminds me that children are designed to move.
But put on the television, or hand my son a video game, and they come to a complete stop – a dangerously, sedated stop. (I have to admit; sometimes it is a delicious stop for a tired mom!)
This generation of children is facing a new challenge – while life speeds up, our bodies are slowing down. We are sitting still, while technology moves for us.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on technology. As I write this post, I am sitting in Starbucks, connected via Wi-Fi and typing on my laptop. I work online. I love technology. But I know its inherent dangers. And I know I have to work to counteract them.
With physical education programs cut back at schools across the country, homework loads increasing, and the constant temptation of video games, television and computers haunting our children as soon as the school dismissal bell rings, children are losing their natural state of activity and play. They simply aren’t moving enough.
And it isn’t hard to see the results. According to the American Heart Association, one-third of America’s children and teens are overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. The increase in childhood obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression. (www.heart.org)
So what should parents do? The world of computer screens, commuting, and long work days is the new reality. It is life in the 21st century.
But we can’t give up. If we don’t want our children to be the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents, we have to help our kids, and ourselves, get moving!
Don’t get overwhelmed though. We can do it -- even if we have to do it in baby steps.
7 Tips to Keep Kids Active
1. “Walk” to School – My son’s school started “Walk to School Wednesday.” Families are encouraged to walk to school and children get recognition in class for doing so. For those of us who live too far to walk, we simply park a few blocks from school and walk. The morning exercise helps get our children’s mind and body ready to face the long school day ahead of them.
2. Sign Them Up! – It drives me crazy that I have to taxi children to organized sports and it definitely is a strain on the family budget, but a regular schedule of after-school sports activities ensures that your children get the much needed physical activity they are missing during their school day.
3. Get a Dog – A dog is an additional member of the family and brings along extra stress and costs. But if a dog fits well in your family, it is a great way to encourage regular physical activity.
4. Family Walks – After dinner is a great time to relax and enjoy some much need family time. Establishing a regular evening walk time with your children will not only improve everyone’s health, but it helps build stronger relationships.
5. Activity Breaks – Most kids want to enjoy video games or TV at some points during the week. Encouraging short activity/exercise breaks during their screen time can refresh their bodies and minds.
6. Get Equipment – Put up a basketball hoop, buy a hockey net, get everyone baseball mitts and then PLAY with your kids!
7. Go Online for Resources – There are countless programs and ideas online to encourage healthier lifestyles. Check out the American Heart Association for tips on activities with kids, weight and stress management, nutrition and more. www.heart.org
Photos by Janice Croze
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