Many of the habits we keep with us throughout our lives are learned in childhood. For parents, teachers and other adults, this means it's vital to encourage children to be physically active. Physical activity helps promote healthy growth, build strong bones and lay the foundation for healthy, physically active adulthood.
Make Activity Fun
Even though children often have lots of energy and stamina, patience is seldom a child's strong suit. Children get the most benefit from physical activity when adults help them discover the fun of it. Physical activities for children should change frequently enough that children won't find them boring. Having a set of different games to play so that you can switch between them regularly can help with this. If taking children on a walk or bicycle ride, vary the route and choose a fun destination to give the kids something to look forward to.
For children, especially for younger children, parental or sibling involvement is an important part of building healthy exercise habits. Playing a game of catch or tag with a child instead of an indoor game will help him stay active. You can support older children in their activities by providing rides to practice or standing on the sidelines cheering. Other adults, such as coaches or gym teachers, will play an important role in inspiring activity among older children.
Set an Example
Children learn many of their habits from their parents. If they see you enjoying exercise, they will learn to regard it as a healthy and fun part of the day. If, however, children see their parents or other adults spending their evenings and weekends in front of the television or sitting at a computer, they'll learn to see this as normal. This is doubly true for older siblings; young children look up to their big brothers and sisters and imitate their habits, even without knowing it.
Encourage Walking and Cycling
For many adults, spending too much time in a car rather than walking or bicycling leads to sedentary habits and poor health. The same is true for children. Walking or cycling to school, friends' houses or other activities is a good way for children to get exercise, have fun and learn independence. If you have concerns about children out walking or biking alone, why not join them? By walking or riding with a child, you can combine supervision and setting a good fitness example.
Find Group Activities
As a parent, teacher, camp counselor or sibling, you don't have to go it alone in helping kids stay active. Other parents can help to organize active play for children, while schools and community groups organize sports teams, martial arts clubs, dance classes and other physical activities. Raising healthy kids can be easier and more rewarding when it's a team effort.