"Parents play a critical role in helping children to be more active and to make life long healthy choices," said Zoe Stallings, MD, a physician at Duke Primary Care in Wake Forest. "Celebrate life with physical activity." For example, she says, "plan your child's next birthday party plan as a picnic instead of a pizza party. Celebrate good grades on a report card with a scavenger hunt at a park."
The Centers for Disease Control recommends kids engage in at least an hour of physical activity each day. The CDC recommends adults engage in at least five hours of exercise each week. Yet, longer workdays and daily commutes, plus a trend toward more sedentary lifestyles means less adults are meeting those daily recommendations. It’s equally hard for kids as more schools cut physical education programs and daily recess.
Start by making exercise fun and easy to do for the family.
"Purchase inexpensive equipment like hula hoops and jump ropes, which are a fun choice for aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping," says Stallings. Children love to show their parent's what they can do so have them teach you a physical exercise that they like to do." On a rainy day you can turn up the music and dance. On a sunny day, pull out the sports equipment and play a game. "Exercise in the form of sports, dance or play build self-esteem and help families communicate better," she adds.
Here’s more ways you can have fun and stay active, and how you can make physical activities a priority for your family on the weekends too:
- Remember the classics: kids love when parents join in on Hide and Seek, Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, or run fun races in the backyard.
- Take family walks and hikes. Bring a picnic to build in some rest time.
- Be a tourist. Visit a museum, the zoo or check out the offerings at the local farmer’s market.
- Don’t let bad weather stop you in your tracks. Play physically demanding interactive video games. Or, move the old fashioned way by turning up your kids’ favorite songs and showing them your dance moves.
- Start a family bowling tournament or try a game of mini-golf.
- Play kickball, softball, or shoot some hoops.
- Start a vegetable garden. Maintaining a garden can be a great activity, and children will be more likely to eat their vegetables if they took part in growing them.