School days mean long hours studying indoors, exercising students’ brains but not their bodies. While classroom learning is the cornerstone of education, it’s important to remember that physical activity supports overall wellness. Keeping kids moving can even boost brain function, improving their grades along with their muscles.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all people age 6 and older engage in 60 minutes of daily physical activity. This advice comes as many P.E. programs have been reduced, cut or simply not required.
During a break in busy schedules, rather than allowing kids to gravitate toward TV, tablets or the computer, encourage them to stay active with these Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals-approved tips:
1. Understand children’s motivators
Recognize that different age groups have different fitness drives, according to the experts at Duke Children’s Hospital in Durham, N.C. For young kids, variety is key. Obstacle courses, scavenger hunts and timed relays keep their bodies and minds active. Teens can stay fit by developing a skill and tracking improvement over time. Help them set small goals each week and track improvements, so you can both be proud of their progress as the weeks zoom by.
2. Get active, exercise restraint
Keeping kids active is just as much about getting them moving as it is removing mental obstacles, says Meagan Young, a lifestyle program specialist at Janeway Children’s Hospital in Newfoundland, Canada. Setting limits on TV and video games is a good place to start. TV-time tokens – tokens kids earn each day that can be exchanged for TV or computer time – provide kids flexibility and freedom with a structure still in place.
3. Variety is the spice of life
A fun, family-friendly option is to create a communal activity jar. Have each family member write enjoyable activities on a piece of paper and combine them. Check community papers and websites for free, local events to include in the mix. Whenever boredom strikes, pull out the jar to find your family’s next adventure.
3. Keep it classic and work toward a goal
No matter how far technology advances, simple games can’t be beat. Tug-of-war, tag, Frisbee and hopscotch are classics for a reason: they’ve stood the test of time. Consider daily variety and a long-term goal, says the staff at Central Lynchburg General Hospital in Lynchburg, Va. If you face resistance from your child, start with 15 minutes and gradually increase their daily play. Consider prize categories for the most improved, best “sport” or participation. You might even host a neighborhood play group one night a week to encourage everyone to get active and have fun.
5. Make participation a family affair
One of the best ways to motivate children to stay active is to join them. When mom, dad or other caregivers participate, kids are less likely to turn up their noses. Jump in and play on the jungle gym or put on your running shoes for that rambunctious game of tag. Kids won’t be able to resist, and you’ll be helping them and yourself stay physically fit.
By setting a family fitness routine, kids will learn that staying active starts at home. Visit CMNHospitals.org and learn how your local member hospital is keeping kids healthy. Click on the blog for other helpful tips to keep your family active and injury-free.