Just about every kid loves a lazy day on the couch with a favorite movie or show on TV. But too much time in a sedentary mode can lead to obesity or other health problems. If your children are spending more time on the couch than off the couch, it’s time to help them get moving. Here’s how:
Set an example: Make sure your kids see you making exercise one of your priorities. Walk, bike, run, play tennis, or go bowling if that’s what you like to do. Just make sure they see you staying active and having fun doing it.
Limit screen time: Set limits on television time (no more than one to two hours per day) and keep video game and recreational computer time to a minimum. Don’t put a television in your child’s bedroom, and keep the computer in a family area as well. Kids should have plenty of energy, so help them harness it in a healthy way outside. If they must be inside, give them a chance to dance around the house to their favorite music, or play activity-centered video games.
Make family time exercise time: Rather than gathering the family around the television, get everyone together to go for a walk or a bike ride. Sure, your older kids may scoff, but it’s good to get in the habit. Throw in a challenge by giving everyone a pedometer and seeing who can walk the most steps in a week.
Set aside a time: Have a specified time each week when you do something active with your kids, whether it’s Monday night at the bowling alley or Wednesdays at the batting cages. You could also plan a weekly picnic-style family meal at a local park, complete with Frisbee or softball.
Limit food to the dining table: When you’re snacking in front of the TV, it’s easy to lose sight of how much you’ve eaten and when it’s time to stop. Your kids will be less likely to stay on the couch for hours at a time if you keep the snacks out of the TV room and make them come to the table to eat their food.
Don’t be the “Mom taxi” all the time: Rather than driving your kids here and there every day, incorporate some walking into the program. If they’re old enough, let them ride their bikes to get where they need to go. (Extra bonus – you’re helping the environment too.)
Tailor the activity: Not every kid is going to be a soccer or basketball star. If your child is more interested in science, take her out on a nature walk so she can collect samples. If your child would rather be reading, walk to the library. If your child is a computer genius, have him walk around the neighborhood hanging up signs offering his computer services – and then have him ride his bike to visit his clients. Physical activity doesn’t have to involve a team or even sports equipment. It’s just a matter of getting out there and getting your body moving.
Make activity a treat, not a punishment: We’ve all heard ourselves saying, “Get up off that couch RIGHT NOW!” but it really shouldn’t be a threat. Try to focus on how it’s not just good for them to get more active, it’s fun and it feels good too.
Of course some days are just made for lazing around, and if it happens every once in a while, that’s fine. But every kid should have at least a few things he or she likes to do to stay active. If your kids maintain some sort of physical activity on a regular basis, they’ll undoubtedly be healthier – and happier.