Remember when childhood was synonymous with running, jumping, and playing games?
These days, kids spend more and more time parked in front of the television, video games, or computer screens. It shows. Since the 1980s, rates of childhood obesity have soared from 11% to 30% in developed nations. They’ve leaped from only 4% to 14% in the developing world -- proving that the problem of inactivity is a worldwide crisis.
What can you do to encourage the whole family to become more active and a lot healthier? Plenty. But with a little creativity, you can inspire the whole family to get up and become more active.
Behavioral scientists say one strategy to make exercise fun is to turn the activity into a friendly competition. Family members can compete against one another or, in larger families, can divide into teams.
Rewards are also a great way to keep everyone motivated -- especially rewards that encourage activity, such as new running shoes or a cool new pedometer. Another trick is to make activity part of everyday life. Encourage kids to share in vigorous household chores. Plan vacations built around activities such as bicycling, canoeing, or hiking. Get into the habit of walking when you do errands, and encourage kids to join in.
Whatever you choose, the latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that kids engage in at least one hour of aerobic activities a day. At least three days a week those activities should be vigorous. Young people should also shoot for doing muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week.
That may seem like a tall order, especially for kids hooked on videogames or computer pastimes. But the benefits of becoming more active as a family are enormous. Studies show that active children and adolescents are fitter, have stronger bones, better cardiovascular health, lower risk of developing insulin resistance, and overall healthier body composition. They’re also more self-confident and less prone to suffering depression.