How to Keep Your Kids Healthy and Happy through Exercise
We are living in the age of the couch potato. There, I said it. With all the entertainment we have at our fingertips, it's easy to stay seated for hours as we get lost in the world created for us by our phones, tablets, computers, and even television. On top of this, many of our regular activities are currently on hold due to nothing less than a global pandemic. It's therefore very important that we make the extra effort to remain active these days - not just because we want to be able to fit into our favorite pair of jeans when the bars reopen (did I just say that?) - but for the loftier reason of keeping our children healthy and helping them to establish good habits throughout their lives.
Why is it important for children to remain active?
The Mayo Clinic reports that regular exercise can improve:
- Aerobic fitness
- Muscle strength
- Bone health
- Weight status
- Cognitive function (such as thinking and memory skills)
Regular exercise can also reduce the risk of depression in children.
And, as I mentioned earlier, establishing good habits and a healthy attitude toward exercise early in life can help children to continue these habits into adulthood.
How to keep your kids active
Firstly, if you're doing any kind of home workouts, invite your kiddo to join in (depending on age, of course). There are many exercises that kids can do from elementary school age onward. Ewunike Akpan, who's a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise and also the associate manager for the mid-Atlantic region for BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) recommends these exercises for kids:
- Jumping jacks
- Sit ups
- Push ups
Be careful not to force your kids into doing these exercises. Good habits are the result of positive experiences, not negative ones. One way to encourage a positive experience of exercise is to turn these activities into games. Set up a relay race to get your kids running around, or maybe challenge them to see how many lunges they can do.
These days there are also plenty of people who advocate yoga for children. So pull out an extra mat and work on those pesky down dogs with your little one. Yoga is also a great way to help your kids learn how to regulate moods and self-soothe, and we could all use a little more of that I think.
There are other ways to incorporate exercise into daily life as well. You can take walks together as a family, or suggest walking to the store instead of driving (if it's near enough). If your child is artsy, take them for a hike to collect natural materials for art projects. Or, if you just feel like being silly and getting some exercise at the same time, turn on some music and have a little dance party at home.
Exercise not only improves your child's physical health, it also improves mental health, cognitive functioning, and helps to set them up for good habits later in life. Plus, if done together as a family, it's a great way to spend time together and bond. Besides, who's a better workout buddy than your mini me?