How to help your kids exercise

Everyone knows that kids need exercise, but how do you encourage your children to work out more? There are so many things they seem to prefer – from video games to texting – that actually getting them moving can seem to be quite a chore.

It is crucial, however. Experts recommend that kids should do an hour of exercise every day, yet most don’t even come close to that. The effects of this lack of exercise for kids is potentially devastating, and is already being seen in the growing obesity rates around the world – it is estimated that in countries like the UK and the USA, one third of all children are now obese, and rates are rising.

As a result, children are now suffering from diseases that previously only affected adults. For instance:

  • Childhood diabetes has increased 10-fold in the last 20 years – type 2 diabetes, which used to be called “adult onset” diabetes, is now common among children.
  • It is estimated that this generation, for the first time in history, will live shorter lives than their parents, with life expectancy likely to fall by as much as five years.
  • Obese children are more than twice as likely to die before the age of 55.
  • Obese teenage women are more likely to die between ages 36-56.
  • Obese teens more than double their mortality risks compared to their slimmest peers.

So how do you get your kids moving? The secret is to find ways to introduce more activity into their lives gradually – forcing them to run laps every day will simply build up a hatred of exercise that will last a lifetime.

  • Start by encouraging them to do a little bit at a time. A few minutes running round the garden, bouncing on the trampoline or walking the dog will add up over the course of a day.
  • Look for safe places to walk and bike in your neighbourhood.
  • Sign them up for after school activities.
  • Set a good example – kids will do what you do, not what you say! If you are overweight and inactive, they aren’t going to listen to your lectures about exercising more.
  • Find activities the whole family can do together. If they are spending time and having fun with you – whether it’s at the pool, out on a bike ride or playing tennis – then exercise is not a chore, it’s something they will embrace.
  • Use "active-play" video games whenever possible. While the Wii isn't the last word in exercise, it is certainly better than sitting at the computer.

You’ll find that exercise benefits kids in so many different ways – it boosts their brain power, can provide an outlet for kids who are restless or hyperactive, even help with emotional disturbances. So get them moving!

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