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Enjoying an Active Lifestyle

The benefits of being active last a lifetime. From building strong bones and improving muscular strength and endurance, to maintaining a healthy weight, an active lifestyle helps reduce stress and increases self-confidence and self-esteem. Getting enough daily exercise is one of the key factors to a child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, children are becoming less active as they spend more time watching TV, playing video games, and using the internet.

You can help your child be active by teaching your child the importance of exercise, being a role model through your own active lifestyle, and providing varied fitness opportunities.

It is recommended that children 2 years of age and older participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every day, and include 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity 3-4 times each week. These activities should focus on building strength, endurance, and flexibility.

  • For children 2-3 years old, try unstructured play such as running, climbing, swinging, and playing in a sandbox.
  • For 4-5 year-olds, introduce organized activities requiring more coordination, such as playing with balls, hoops, riding a bicycle with training wheels, dancing, and gymnastics.
  • At 6-12 years old, children can quickly learn new skills for individual and team sports such as soccer, dancing, or yoga.

In fact, playing sports is a great way to stay active and teach many important values. Encourage your child to participate, but don’t force them. Simply find out what he or she is interested in and provide support. When it comes to playing sports, keep these tips in mind:

  • Consider your child’s size and abilities and expose them to a variety of new activities.
  • Don’t introduce competitive sports before age six.
  • Make sure your child has a thorough physical exam before starting any sport.
  • Attend your child’s games to show support.
  • If your child is not interested in team sports, try individual sports like swimming, tennis, or martial arts.
  • To maintain safety, always stretch before and after exercise. Wear proper equipment such as helmets, elbow pads, and protective padding.
  • Follow the talk/sing rule: children are probably exercising at the right level of intensity if they’re breathing too heavily to be able to sing, but are still able to talk.
  • Teach them to stop if they feel pain, dizziness, or nausea.

You can spend quality time as a family while building a healthy lifestyle by planning inexpensive activities together. Some ideas for fun, free, family activities are: playing catch or throwing a Frisbee, dancing to music, playing hide and seek, going on hikes, playing at local parks, visiting a beach or lake, bike riding, and taking the dog for walks.

Unfortunately, obesity is a problem for many children today and can lead to health problems later in life. Two ways to help a child lose weight are improving their diet, and reducing inactivity.

Obesity is caused by eating more calories than are being used up. Try to limit junk and fast food and prepare well-balanced meals and healthy snacks. Offer your child fresh fruit instead of sugary desserts. To eliminate over-snacking between meals, have meals and snacks set at the same time each day; and offer drinks of water and healthy snacks such as an apple or carrots. Don’t use food as a reward or punishment, and make sure you are modeling proper eating habits for your children.

Additionally, too much time in front of the TV, video games, internet, or on the phone reduces the time that children could be spending in healthy activity. Make TV watching educational, or part of family time when you can discuss the program together. Keep televisions out of children’s bedrooms and limit the time on the TV or computer to one hour per day for children 2-5 years of age.

If you’d like to find out more about how to create an active lifestyle for your family, and find resources on other important parenting topics, visit Children’s Home Society of California’s website at www.chs-ca.org for additional podcasts and printable brochures.

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