Research continues to show how important physical activity is for the best health at any age. For kids, this message is especially critical given the alarming rate of childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 13 million children and adolescents in the U.S. are considered obese.
Regular exercise can help kids maintain a healthy weight and avoid problems like diabetes and hypertension. It also promotes stronger muscles and bones, a better outlook and a chance to socialize with other kids outside of school.
According to R. J. Gurney, Children's Program Manager, Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Centers, many children start on the path to an active lifestyle by participating in one or more team sports. That's also true of kids who enjoy other physical activities, such as skating, dancing or unstructured, but active play. However, some kids become couch potatoes during the off-season or once they tire of their favorite activity, and many other kids who have never been active would rather choose screen time or other less rigorous pursuits.
"Parents need to take a role in getting kids to a good base point if they want them to maintain an active lifestyle as adults," says Gurney.
What can parents do? Gurney offers these tips:
- Get moving as a family. Schedule fun, active family days – a trip to the beach or pool, or a bike ride or hike in the forest preserve or botanical gardens. Rack up some steps checking out area museums and other sites.
- Nurture the passion. If your child seems especially excited about a particular sport or other activity, encourage them. This might be an activity that stays with them for life. But, be sure your child is exposed to a variety of activities that might also spark their interest. One might become a second activity or a replacement for a sport in which they lose interest.
- Involve friends. Kids will be more likely to stick with an activity if their friends are also involved. Talk with the parents of one of your children's friends about options that might appeal to both kids.
- Set the tone. Show your kids that you enjoy making fitness a part of your routine. Share with them what you like about running, working out, yoga classes or whatever your favorite activities may be.
- Learn a new skill. Either individually or as a family, pick a new activity to try out. Archery? Kayaking? If anyone in the family can't swim, take lessons. It's a skill that's potentially lifesaving and a lifetime source of fun.
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Center in Woodridge offers programs to help children and teens stay active and build healthy habits to last a lifetime. More than two dozen kids classes are offered, including gymnastics for preschoolers, basketball clinics for 5- to 12-year-olds, extreme fitness training for teens, children's aquatics classes for kids from 6 months to 12 years of age, and many more. For more information, visit www.eehealth.org/healthy-driven/fitness-centers.