It is no question that kids of all ages love to play and be active! Choosing to play tag with a group of friends, swing from the monkey bars, or even kick around a soccer ball is all part of a healthy lifestyle that may lead to a lifetime of exercising. Studies show that young children who are encouraged to participate in such activities in their early years are more likely to continue those healthy habits into adulthood.
To prevent a decrease in a child's activity level, encourage exercise on a daily basis and have him choose an activity that he'll enjoy. Playing fun games or sports will increase a child's willingness to exercise.
- Exercise causes the brain to release chemicals called endorphins, which naturally make us feel happy and healthy.
- Children with active lifestyles tend to excel in sports.
- Physically active kids tend to be academically motivated, alert, and successful.
- Healthy children have high self-esteem.
Healthy eating habits and an exercise routine are fundamental parts of a child's development. Lead by example; your child will be more likely to exercise if YOU exercise. Here are some ideas to encourage your child to engage in a fitness routine:
1. Give Plenty of Opportunity To Be Active:
Make sure your child has easy access to exercise. Consider purchasing a piece of gym equipment or fitness DVD. Another option is to take your child to a playground or sign him/her up for a sport.
2. Focus on Fun:
Pick activities that your child enjoys, like bicycle riding, swimming, rollerblading, or playing a sport. The goal is for your child to enjoy the activity so much that she don't even realize she is exercising!
3. Pour on the Praise:
Kids love to be praised. A simple high-five or "way to go" encourages children to continue the activity.
The best way for kids to get physical activity is by incorporating it into their daily routine. Toddlers to teens need at least 60 minutes on most days of the week. This can include free play at home, active time at school, and participation in classes or organized sports. For best results, establish a list of physical activities that your child can enjoy with minimal stress.
Preschoolers: Preschoolers need play and exercise to help them continue to develop important motor skills. Activities such as, kicking or throwing a ball, playing tag or follow the leader, hopping on one foot, riding a bike, freeze dancing, or running obstacle courses are all great activities that build fundamental skills.
School-age: Limit the amount of time children spend watching TV and playing computer games. Parents should help children find fun outdoor and indoor activities all year round. Some outdoor activities range from traditional sports like baseball and tennis to swimming, biking, hiking, and walking. Indoor activities include basketball, dancing, running on a treadmill, or playing an active video game.
Teenagers: Teens have many choices when it comes to being active -- from school sports to after-school interests, such as yoga, gymnastics or skateboarding. It is important to remember that physical activity must be planned in advance to fit in a busy schedule. Encourage your teen to participate in activities with their peers; it's enjoyable and healthy for their body, mind and spirit.
Exercise + Healthy Eating Habits = A Fit Kid
Many studies show young children who practice a healthy lifestyle continue those habits well into adulthood. Parents must educate their children on why a healthy diet and exercise go hand in hand. Eating well-balanced meals during the day will fuel your children's workouts. Post workout, children need to eat a combination of complex carbohydrates and lean protein to replenish their bodies and feed their muscles!
Some Healthy Post-Workout Snacks:
* 1 Tbsp peanut butter with a banana
* 6 ounce container of non-fat yogurt with 10 almonds
* 1 fat-free cheese stick and an apple
* 5 whole wheat crackers with 2 ounces of lean turkey lunch meat
* 1 cup of fortified, high fiber cereal with ½ cup skim milk
Remember, calcium and protein are vital to a child's bone stability, muscle growth and strength. The right exercises combined with the right foods are a perfect fit for you and your child. By providing a well-balanced eating plan and exercise regimen, your child will be on her way to a healthy lifestyle for years to come.
Follow Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joannadolgoffmd