BY JODY MOSES
As if we didn’t already have enough to worry about as parents, a new study shows the majority of Aussie kids are getting way less than the recommended daily amount of exercise.
To be precise, 78 per cent of our kids are not doing enough physical activity every day.
The study was commissioned privately, by the Nestle-owned Milo brand, but holds weight because it uses a sample of more than 1,000 parents of kids between the ages of 6-12 across Australia.
To give us an idea of what our kids should be doing, the Department of Health provides guidelines that currently recommend kids aged 6-12 get a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
We all know the dangers of inactivity – not just for kids – for adults too, and they’re very real, including greater risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Vascular Disease, Obesity, Depression and low self-esteem.
But instead of just making ourselves feel worse about all the things we aren’t doing with our kids, lets look at what we can do:
Make Exercise Fun
Nutritionist, Susan Kevork believes it’s much easier to encourage kids to stay healthy when the activity is fun. “Get kids off the couch by introducing a fitness tracker and encourage them to learn more about daily energy and nutritional needs”. If you don’t want to spend the money on a fancy tracker, create a chart in the kitchen where everyone can write down their daily activity and see how they compare to the others. Hopefully this will be a source of motivation!
Make Exercise a Family Affair
Find an activity you can do together, whether it’s a game of ‘Tip’, football, running races or bike riding. The key is to find something that you can do at almost any age and make it a regular event. My kids love getting out in the early evening for a ride on their scooters and the grown-ups walk alongside. It’s a great way to end the day instead of eyes being plastered to a screen.
Set Aside Time in Your Diary for Exercise
I’m a diary person – that means everything gets written down or it doesn’t get done. It’s the same with exercise. Set aside one part of the weekend that is dedicated to physical activity. On Saturday morning when my daughter plays netball, my husband and I take turns watching my daughter and playing an informal two-man game of soccer with my son. It’s great for all of us and is a solid hour of fresh air and physical activity. Make the most of the summer months to swim as a family as much as possible. If you have bikes, go riding!
Worth repeating: Limit screen time!
We hear it often, but it bears reminding: allocate a strict and limited period of time for screens – and stick to it! Life is crazy busy so let’s not kid – most parents use screens to buy time when we need it to get things done or keep our kids occupied, but this has to be limited. I find the minute I take screens away and turn off the TV, my kids begin to play imaginatively and creatively. Incorporate active games into this imaginative play, so if they’re riding or scooting, pretend to be a policeman or traffic light! Or simply get outside and throw a ball.
Create an Obstacle Course
Use anything you can find to make an interesting obstacle course that challenges the kids and gets them running. They’ll be so focused on getting through the obstacles that they won’t even realise they’re exercising. Make it extra fun by adding skipping or jumping exercises as part of the routine.
Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better and generally eat better. They’re also better able to handle physical and emotional challenges that life throws at them.
And remember to lead by example! Couch potato parents often nurture couch potato kids!