Encouraging Kids to Be Active

Kids spending too much time indoors? Here, tips on how to encourage them to ditch the Wii in favor of outdoor activities

February 13, 2013
Encouraging Kids to Be Active

Planning family vacations has become pretty challenging over the last couple years. Between sports and social activities, it’s almost impossible to coordinate all three kids. I think I finally managed to do it, though! (Of course, whether or not my son’s hockey team makes it to states is still to be determined, so things could change any minute.) I’m packed and ready to leave this Friday for a long over due weekend in Lake Placid. So much to do there, and the kids absolutely love it! Last time we went, I remember the boys spending hours shoveling snow off the lake behind the house just so they could play ice hockey until the sun went down. It reminded me of myself growing up.

I feel like a dinosaur when I say this, but times were definitely different back then. We had so much more unstructured active playtime. It makes me sad when I see how old-fashioned playing outside has become, and it’s no coincidence that childhood obesity has become such a crisis in America. There are countless articles and blogs about how the foods kids eat are a major concern. We all know that processed food and excess sugar needs to be controlled or eliminated, but that’s only part of it. The inactivity of kids today is a serious concern as well. With so many distractions for kids not to exercise (TV, video games, computers, iPhones etc.), it’s no wonder we see the childhood obesity epidemic getting worse—and fast. We can’t stop technology or change the times (not that we would want to), but we can definitely help by teaching and motivating our children to be physically active. It comes from us as parents and starts young through example, making time for creative activities, and being persistent.

How can we help? Just like with nutrition, when it comes to exercise, kids learn from us. It’s important to teach them when they’re very young that exercise is fun! It’s easy to get caught up in our hectic lives and make a bad habit of allowing our kids to sit in front of the TV or video games too much (and believe me, mine do plenty of that too). But as difficult as it can be at times, making time for physical activity and exposing them to as much as possible early on will help to develop healthy habits and a passion for exercise. Depending on the age of your kids, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an organized sport or in a gym, it can just be getting out and doing anything active—maybe it’s canoeing, rock climbing, fishing, jumping rope etc. I really don’t believe every form of exercise needs to be rigid or competitive in nature. Not every kid will excel at sports but they should still enjoy, look forward to, and be healthy enough to be physically active in some way.

When my kids got older and started playing organized sports, I encouraged them with positive reinforcement and tried to always emphasize having fun and developing skills, not just winning. Yes, we all want our kids to excel and win; but most of all, they should enjoy what they’re doing. When they do, it’s almost impossible to stop them from it long enough to do some homework! Seriously, I get dizzy watching my daughter who is constantly spinning, flipping, cartwheeling or doing a split at any given moment of the day. It makes me laugh sometimes! If you’re at my house long enough, inevitably you will hear some loud noises coming from the garage. That would be my son practicing his slap shot and pucks banging into walls. Sometimes I feel like I live in a circus, but I love knowing that they truly love what they do.

There are so many fun things to do together as a family up at Lake Placid and I'm really looking forward to it! Not just to get in shape, but to have fun, to bond, and at the same time continuing to teach them good health habits that can last for the rest of their lives.

Stay fit, have fun, and love every minute of it! Life is too short not to.

Patty Zariello
IFBB Figure Pro
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