Getting Kids off the Couch: Tips for Raising Fit Kids

You might have heard the adage, “sitting is the new smoking.” A sedentary lifestyle can put you at risk of developing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer. Since good habits start in childhood, it’s important to get your kids off of the couch and moving around. While young children are often happy to run and play, older kids and teenagers can tend to spend many hours per day staring at screens or otherwise not moving around very much. Here are some tips on getting kids of all ages off the couch and into a more active lifestyle.

Buy Toys That Encourage Activity

Instead of buying the latest video game or another DVD, look for toys that will get your kids off of the couch. For example, buy jump ropes, balls and other outdoor toys for springtime gifts. A new bicycle makes a great bigger-ticket item. Roller skates or a skateboard also make great gifts. Ask grandparents and aunts and uncles to purchase swim lessons, tickets to mini golf or other types of active “experiential” gifts.

Make Time for an Active Lifestyle

Today’s families are often over-scheduled. If you find yourself rushing from work to daycare to piano lessons to the math tutor’s house, only to eat a hurried late dinner, put the kids to bed and start again the next day, you are certainly not alone. The problem is that all of this rushing from activity to activity does not allow time for impromptu backyard soccer games, long walks or going swimming as a family.

If your schedule is tight, block out some time on the weekends for active family fun. The possibilities are endless; think about what your family likes to do, and go from there. If you aren’t much into organized sports, try flying a kite at the park or joining a walk/run for charity. You might be able to bond with your teenager over running or biking; schedule in 30 minutes after dinner, now that the days are longer. If you have little ones, chase them outside to play in the neighborhood for a little while after school. It will help them get the wiggles out before they start their homework.

Put on Some Music and Delegate Chores

Not all activity needs to be outdoors or even designed for entertainment. Household chores and yard work need to get done, so you might as well get the whole family to join in. Mopping floors, mowing the lawn, moving furniture and even dusting can be as good as calisthenics. Crank up the tunes and get everyone to work together to whip the house and yard into shape. Reward everyone with a swim in the pool or a game of bowling, then relax in front of a movie later that evening.

Physical activity can be as fun as it is necessary for good health. Gather up your family and talk about ways to incorporate more movement into your days. Consider having challenges; see who can get the most steps into his or her day (there are a variety of pedometers and step-counting apps available), for example. Above all, lead by example. Your health, and your kids’ health, is worth it!