Everyone knows that there is a significant connection between exercise and physical health, and now there is research showing a connection between exercise and mental health. The question then becomes, “How do we get our children and teens to exercise, knowing it is so good for them?” Typically, younger children will get 30 minutes of exercise each day at school, but experts suggest that children should get 60 minutes each day. Many teens get little or no exercise at all. As parents, we can encourage our children to get up and move, exercise, play and invigorate themselves, as this helps them to become healthier and happier in several ways.
Here are some tips to help your children lead more active lives:
1) Decrease screen time. Worrying about the amount of TV watched is ineffective if children then can turn their attention to a video game or computer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under age two have no screen time, and that kids older than two watch no more than one to two hours a day of quality programming. When a parent offers their child a different alternative, children will often choose the alternative.
2) Take kids to the gym with you and be a role model. Kids learn best by seeing their parents doing something healthy for themselves. Most gyms and health clubs have different programs for children, depending on their age and fitness levels. A genuine accomplishment, such as running further or swimming better, builds self-esteem, and can have an immediate impact on positive mental health.
3) Suggest team sports and activities like baseball, football, soccer, softball, swimming, and volleyball. These are leagues that are commonly found, and with which children can participate in. When joining a team, adolescents and children learn teamwork, accomplishment, and gain physical benefits. There are many other activities that are beneficial, such as Girl Scouts, karate, geocaching, dance, and swim lessons, to name a few.
4) Keep everything fun and entertaining; do not make exercise, play, or their activity or sport into a chore or obligation. They will notice your negative attitude and will likely quit the activity. Do not push them too hard. The idea is to just increase their physical exercise and help them to feel good. Let your child dictate the pace and which activities they want to do. A variety of sports, exercise, and physical activities can help you and your children learn what they are interested in, and may create a lifelong passion for physical activity.
5) Buy (and keep on hand) balls, jump ropes, bats, beanbags, horseshoes and/or, if possible, a bike. The possibilities are endless; the toys do not necessarily have to be used as intended, just used. When you play with your children, you are forging memories and strengthening your relationship. Get imaginative with the items and create different games: maintain safety, but let your child make the rules. Make playing and exercising a family event.
6) Send kids outside and let them explore. Often kids will and can entertain themselves and stay physical if we as adults give them the chance. Set up a family calendar for days that, as a family, you all go to the park to have fun. When children can count down and know that they are going to do something fun, they can anticipate it and help hold the family accountable to exercising.
Lastly, remember how much fun simple games like freeze tag, hide and seek, or red rover was? Now you can teach these games to your children and play as a family.
There has been much written about the connection between physical health and exercise, and now the connection between exercise and mental health is showing significance through research. Medical doctors recommend that children get 60 minutes of exercise per day; younger children are only getting about 30 minutes of exercise at school. Children can be more active and reap the benefits of exercise, such as improved self-esteem, learning to get along with peers, accomplishing a goal, and learning healthy life-long habits.
© Copyright 2011 by Jeffrey Gallup. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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