Children today are facing a major health crisis. In years past, kids grew up playing outdoors, running, climbing, swimming, and exploring the natural world around them.
But in 2022, most kids spend less than 10 minutes outdoors every day. Instead, they are cooped up inside, staring at screens, and suffering from countless ailments. They are becoming sedentary, and their health is suffering as a result.
Not only are they becoming obese at an alarming rate, but they are developing respiratory diseases, thanks to indoor air pollution, which is much more than outdoor air.
It’s vital that kids stay active, get regular exercise, and spend time outdoors throughout the week. But it’s easier said than done.
Keep reading below to learn how to encourage a healthy lifestyle in your children today.
Limit Screen Time
What’s the biggest threat to an active lifestyle in your children? The addictive nature of screens. Phones, tablets, computers, and televisions are engineered by the smartest people in the world to capture as much of our attention as possible.
And children are especially susceptible.
Left unchecked, children can easily spend all of their free time on a screen, hopping from TV shows to video games, and even online homework.
If you want to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle, you need to draw a line and limit screen time. At the very least, you need to schedule some time each day where screens are off-limits. This might be 30 minutes, an hour, or a few hours.
Maybe you do it for a whole day, like Saturday. Either way, helping your children create boundaries with technology can help them dramatically.
List Out All Play Places Nearby
Variety is the spice of life. That applies to nearly everything, including fitness for kids.
To spice things up, make a list of all the places in your town where kids can enjoy physical activity. These might be parks with playgrounds.
It might be a local adventure park, where kids can navigate a ropes course in the trees. It might be an indoor playground. Or it could be a trampoline park.
Any place where kids would enjoy physical activity should make it on this list. And you should prioritize visiting these places each week and month, to get your kids out of the house and away from the screens.
Join a Local Program
Trying to get your kids active on your own can be daunting. It can be much easier to join a local group, with plenty of other kids. It can be especially helpful if you invite their existing friends, too.
Many schools offer fitness and play programs throughout summer vacation, or after school. Likewise, libraries, churches, parks, and other organizations may host activities for kids as well.
A child enrichment program can help them to try new things with other children, helping them to discover how fun active hobbies can be. These programs mix together many types of fitness activities, such as gymnastics, dance, yoga, team sports, and much more.
When your kids participate in an active enrichment program, the line between exercise and play is blurred.
Sign Up for Sports
Traditional team sports are always a great way to build an active lifestyle for your kids. The key is playing sports consistently from year to year, and helping your kids find the sports they really enjoy.
Most start out with sports like baseball, basketball, or soccer. But if you find your kids aren’t engaging, don’t be afraid to try something new.
Maybe they want to try something a little less common, like field hockey or lacrosse. Or maybe they prefer being on the water and would enjoy rowing.
Or if they like being in the water, they can join a competitive swimming team or learn to play water polo. For something with a slower pace, golf is still a great option.
Otherwise, karate, martial arts, archery, gymnastics, tennis, volleyball, and many others are available. You owe it to your kids to help them find the sport they love. Helping them discover their favorite sport early on can encourage a lifetime of activity.
Make a Local Bucket List
Some children struggle with unstructured play. If told to “go outside,” they might not have any idea of what to do.
Some kids need a little bit of structure and guidance when it comes to experiencing the outdoors. For them, it might help to make some type of local activity bucket list.
Say your kids like to go on hikes. You could make a list of all the hiking trails in your immediate area (which is very easy with tools like AllTrails).
Print out the list and hang it somewhere like on the refrigerator. Make a plan to hike a new trail at least once per week, and cross it off the list each time you complete one.
You’ll find your children are more motivated than ever to get outside, especially if you build a tradition like getting ice cream afterward.
You can do the same thing with biking trails, playgrounds, state parks, swimming holes, mountains, beaches, and so forth.
Help Them Find a Favorite Hobby
Kids have no problem spending hours a day enjoying their favorite hobbies. The only issue with this is that for most kids, video games and television have become their favorite hobbies.
Luckily, this can always change. If you can help your child discover a new favorite hobby, you won’t even have to try to get them outdoors. They’ll do it on their own.
But you’ll need to be patient with them and devote time to helping them try new things. So what should you have them try?
Most kids love riding their bikes. Cycling is one of the best ways kids can get active.
If they seem bored with riding around the neighborhood, try to find local mountain bike trails, which are much more engaging. Those who fall in love with mountain biking lead some of the most active lives all the way through adulthood.
You can also try rock climbing. Most new climbers visit an indoor climbing gym before trying to climb outdoors. Indoor gyms are safe and can be a blast for kids as they get a bit older.
Skateboarding is another great option. While it doesn’t let itself to experiencing nature, it’s a very active sport, albeit a bit more dangerous than others. Scooters have exploded in popularity among younger kids and might be a good option as well.
And if your kid isn’t the most active, to begin with, try a hobby like photography. Learning to take pictures is more art than exercise. But it can encourage them to get outdoors in the backyard or on hiking trails to find birds, animals, and other scenes to photograph.
Bike to School
In the past, most kids were able to walk or bike to school. This meant twice-daily exercise, at the very least.
But today, as few as 20% of school children walk or bike. Instead, they take the bus, or increasingly, are dropped off directly by their parents.
While this is necessary for many cities where families live too far away from their school, kids are missing out on an important benefit. Active transportation to school is very helpful to kids.
Not only does it give them exercise, but it gives them fresh air and sunshine. It provides a boost of energy before they sit down for a day of study. Active transportation can stimulate the mind, enhance creativity, and encourage problem-solving.
If you live near your children’s school, consider active transportation instead of driving. If they aren’t old enough to go on their own, you can walk or bike with them, to encourage your own healthy living as well.
Move Somewhere Else
Depending on where you live, the weather might play a huge role in how active your lifestyle is. For those living in northern states with long snowy winters, for example, it can be tough to get outside for months on end.
While many people like the snow and enjoy putting on winter gear to go outdoors, many hate it. As a result, the entire family is cooped up inside watching TV from November to April, waiting for the snow to melt.
But this is what causes major mental health problems. SAD (seasonal affective disorder), is usually to blame by those who dislike the winter.
If you feel the weather is affecting your child’s ability to go outdoors and live an active lifestyle year-round, it’s worth it to consider moving to another state.
If you can move somewhere where the weather is milder year-round, and they get to stay active in every season, it will radically affect their health and wellness.
Setup an Indoor Play Area
Can’t justify the cross-country move? If you need to help your kids stay active in the winter, try building an indoor play area.
If you have space in the basement, you can set up an obstacle course. Many people even build an indoor rock climbing wall. You can even buy an indoor bounce house.
While outside play is the best when it comes to physical activity, there’s no shortage of options for those who are stuck indoors as well.
Help Your Kids Stay Active
It can be tough to get your kids outdoors, enjoying physical activity every week or every day. But it’s vital that we help our kids stay active.
Their health, both physical and mental, depends on it. The more active they are, the better they will do in school, and the happier they will be. Isn’t that worth some effort from you?
If you need some more help, be sure to visit our blog to find other helpful articles like this.