Isn’t it odd, when you really think about it, that when babies pop along we can’t wait to celebrate them starting to walk and talk and yet once they do we are very quick to encourage them to sit still obediently and be quiet. It is abundantly clear that as a nation we are struggling to get enough activity – with only 28% of women hitting the recommended 150 minutes a week and equally as shocking is that only 24% of girls and 40% of boys aged 2-15 years are meeting the recommendations.
So are you getting enough? If you are then hats off to you – please keep reading for some other great ideas to help keep yourselves motivated, but if you are struggling with how to do it then how about making it a family affair?
I think it is fair to say that many moons ago we were collectively way more active and that technology has certainly played a huge role in the demise of us just moving. It certainly was the norm to run around all day and if you think about it, kids have not changed but their circumstances have. They still have an innate need to move, play and have fun – in fact don’t we all? However old we are.
The stats are tragic – the research clearly shows that behaviours in physical activity as a child often continue in to adulthood. Children who are inactive are robbed of opportunities to learn important skills, are more likely to be obese and are developing sedentary habits that can last a lifetime.
So here are my top tips to get you all involved:
Take their lead
So often we are expected (rightly so) to be role models to our children, but there are so many things we can learn from our kids. In their younger years they are bundles of energy and so carefree – they want to play with you at every moment – so seize this opportunity. We’ve all heard that old saying ‘they grow up too fast’ and they certainly do – so set aside time when you truly give them 100% focus and dedication and get totally involved. You could call this your ‘family fun hour’ where you turn off all distractions and focus solely on moving and playing – yes, they may want to make an obstacle course out of your favourite cushions or jump in muddy puddles but just embrace it and play – find the big kid in you too.
It is really helpful to schedule this time (even make a wall planner) then you will all stick with it and you can also include the whole family in coming up with ideas – that way you can really listen to what your kids like to do and embrace their naturally creative side. You could also show them a few of the games you used to love from your childhood such as ‘stuck in the mud’ or maybe your killer dance moves.
Alongside your planner you could have a reward chart where you all receive recognition of what you did – yep, even Grandad can have a sticker for scoring a goal (or two). This would also be a great chart to award great sportsmanship, creativity and participation.
Look around you
You’ll notice that kids jump on to the latest crazes and like to do what their mates are doing – so why not ask them what they like to do – let them take the lead. Yes, it might mean you having to do a little research too (yep, I had to ask another adult what Pokemon Go was all about – then I realised it was like geocaching but with a device). There is plenty around that inspires kids – it might be watching other kids at the skate park or taking a few highlights in from sports events such as the Olympics. Also whenever you are out and about you can use your surroundings to get in some activity or work on a skill – think of everywhere as your playground. It might be balancing on a low wall on the way to the shops, or jumping on and off logs in the woods or using a Frisbee or ball in the park.
Don’t just rely on the third parties
Although we know how fantastic kids coaches are and it’s great to sign your kid up to be in a team – don’t forget your influence can also be massive. After all you wouldn’t expect your babysitter to teach junior to tie their shoelaces whilst you watch from the side lines. The research points so very heavily at kids being highly influenced by seeing active parents and grandparents so make an effort to set time aside for your own fitness, activities and hobbies so that they see your example.
The here and now and the sparkly teeth concept
Try to avoid assuming that kids understand the concept of what could happen to them in the future, especially when they are young. If you were to say to a 3 year old “if you don’t brush your teeth you will lose them when you are older” – they simply don’t get it. Yet if you were to say to them “let’s brush your teeth so they are all sparkly” they will understand. Considering this within fitness should mean we talk about them being faster, stronger or jumping higher rather than avoiding problems in later life, although of course we do know that ourselves.
There are moments as a parent when you fear your kids might be struggling to open up so my top tip would be try what I call ‘walky talky’. I’m astonished how well both of my sons open up to me when we just go out for a walk. My youngest might talk about his favourite dinosaur but for my eldest son who is 17 I have found his words flow easier when we just take a stroll. He has an openness and honesty that a teen might struggle with at other times when talking to their parent.
Are you ready for a change?
Currently 2.7 million people in England use the NHS Change4Life programme – you may well have seen it advertised on TV and yep, I would highly recommend it for families. It is simple to sign up and it helps you create activity programs and gives very helpful hints also on nutrition – they have a great app called ‘Food Scanner’ that is a simple tool you can scan food with to show in a very easy graphic of how much sugar is in a snack for example. Change4Life has different initiatives all the time to keep you interested – currently they have 10 minute shake ups which is full of simple ideas of how to get 10 mins of activity which would get you well on your way to meeting the recommended quota.
So how much is enough and how do you know you are getting enough?
Kids up to 5 should be having a whopping 3 hours activity a day and 5-17 years olds should be accumulating 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity in an interval approach. For any age it most definitely needs to be safe, enjoyable and developmentally appropriate and also needs to be consistent. I believe consistency comes about recognising it is vital and essential – so make time for it – it is as simple as that. Also try and add variety so it doesn’t feel stale – a great little app from Change4 Life is ‘ Fun Generator’ – it’s so simple to use and free – simply select whether you are playing indoors or outdoors and then select how many kids are playing and then press go – it gives you a brilliant selection of activities to try out.
Technology is not always the enemy
It is recommended that teens have less than 2 hours doing sedentary non-academic activity a day, such as watching television or screen time. But we can use technology to get us moving more (remember Pokemon Go?) Do you wear a fitness tracker? If not maybe take a look at them together or perhaps get them a pedometer so they can keep track of how much movement they are getting – this isn’t about creating competition but more for awareness. Or simply use the timer on your watch to keep track during an activity or get them to count how many flights of stairs they climbed in the day for a fun task – they might even beat you.
Try and avoid using your kids shape, size or image as the reason to exercise – in a way as soon as we talk about it like that we could potentially start making this an issue. Instead talk about how strong, how skilled, how brave your kids are. Also resist the temptation to appear that we are punishing ourselves with exercise as exercise is so much more than that and our kids almost certainly need to be shown how to be body confident as well as how to exercise.
So let’s stop kidding ourselves and imagining that our families fitness and wellbeing is going to take care of itself – you now have some simple, effective, tried and tested top tips to ensure you and your family are getting enough and more importantly having a shed load of fun whilst doing it – you can even think of it as homework and the dog definitely won’t eat this!
Good luck with it all!
Contact Teresa on 07775 840584 or at Teresa@pinnaclegroupexercise.com