As we ponder our New Year’s resolutions from a month ago and slowly consider coming out of hibernation, let’s take a moment to reflect on times we were physically active as youth. Perhaps it was in organized sports. Or it was a weekly race to catch the ice cream truck before it got to the next block. If you were like me, it may have involved evading dodgeballs while trying not to shriek in terror and lose bladder control.
Whatever your experience, hopefully we can collectively promote memorable physical activity for our kids that will develop into lifelong habits.
Exercise (“physical activity”) recommendations from national groups may be more than you would anticipate. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 45-60 minutes of activity “as many days as possible” (healthychildren.org). The Centers for Disease Control recommends 60 minutes or more every day for kids.
So how can kids come close to making the grade? First, let’s talk about scheduled times for activity, then how to add or “sneak” more activity into other parts of their day.
Time outside is often advantageous. If snow abounds, consider building a snowman or snow fort, cross-country skiing, sledding (and walking back up the hill) or snowshoeing. As the weather warms, transition to playing tag, jumping rope and riding bikes.
Older kids might benefit from the camaraderie of team sports. Try to choose sports with a good aerobic component to them, such as swimming, cross country, soccer and basketball. Check out parks and recreation offerings and the local YMCA.
How can you motivate children without an ice cream truck? For younger kids, denoting times of activity through sticker charting might be a good start. Turning off TVs and all “screens” can be beneficial. Consider imposing a rule that before sedentary activity (i.e. video games or a movie) that there first must be meaningful physical activity. For teens and adults, use a pedometer to count steps (with a goal of 10,000 steps per day) or consider a workout partner. A friend participating in healthy activities can be a great motivator.
Next, how do you “sneak” additional physical activity into a day? My own kids’ preference is to follow a cheeseburger and soda with the accompanying Playland, but I think we can be more creative than that. Walk or bike to a destination rather than drive. If you have a dog, take it on regular brisk walks. Park farther away from the entrance in parking lots and use stairs instead of elevators. Stop by a park or the Yakima Greenway in the midst of errands during the day.
So what memories can you create with your children through healthy activity? What habits do you want to change? Let’s try to resist the lure of the ice cream truck together. Best wishes for an active 2013!