Children learn so much from their first teachers: their parents. Learning to be fit and active is no exception. Studies show that if parents are physically active, their children are likely to be so, too.
Sadly, our nation has a long way to go in this regard. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, only one in three children are physically active each day, and only one in three adults achieve the recommended amount of physical activity each week. Children spend on average over seven hours each day in front of a screen (TV, computer, phone, video games). Nearly one-third of high school students play video or computer games for three or more hours on an average school day.
This inactivity has contributed to an epidemic of overweight and obesity among Americans, including the young. The Centers for Disease Control says that more than one-third of children and adolescents can be considered overweight or obese.
Children and adolescents who are obese are more likely to remain so as adults and are more at risk for developing health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.
Physical activity is important for children and adults of all ages. Adults need a minimum of two and a half hours a week of physical activity, and children should get at least 60 minutes a day.
Here are six tips from ChooseMyPlate.gov to help your family fit activity into your busy schedule.
• Set specific times to be active together as a family. Make it a family routine to go for a walk after dinner or have everyone join in for a Sunday afternoon bike ride.
• Include kids in yard and house work. Raking leaves, pulling weeds, washing the car and mopping the floors are all ways to be physically active and get needed chores accomplished. Make chores fun! Put on some music or have a competition — who can pull the most weeds in five minutes?
• Know that you don’t need expensive equipment to be active. Going on a nature discovery hike, playing tag or having a team obstacle race at the playground are all great ways to spend time as a family and get fit at the same time. Many communities offer low-cost or free recreation programs or access to fitness equipment. Go to lprd.org for more information in Lawrence.
• Try new things. Has your family ever been geocaching, orienteering or played pickleball? Become acquainted with active group or team activities and try some of these out.
• Set limits on screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over age 2 have only one to two hours a day of “entertainment media” exposure, and it should be avoided entirely in children under age 2.
• Plan family outings that involve being physically active. Go to a beach and swim, go to the zoo, fly a kite, trek through a museum or participate in a fundraising bicycle ride or run/walk event.
When the entire family participates in an active lifestyle, children will see that physical activity is important. Many life-long positive habits are set by what kids are exposed to during their childhood. In addition, parents will gain extra quality time spent with their kids, and that is priceless!
What could be more refreshing during a summer run or walk than a little water? Bring the family and join the Lawrence Memorial Endowment Association for a fun event — the LMH Summer Spray 5K Fun Run & Walk. The next event is scheduled for Saturday, July 19, at 7:30 a.m. at Family Medicine of Tonganoxie, 410 Woodfield Drive, Tonganoxie. For more information including how to register and the participation fee, visit lmhendowment.org or call 505-3318. Another Summer Spray event is planned in Baldwin City on Saturday, August 23.
Aynsley Anderson is Community Education Coordinator for Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.