ENCOURAGING YOUR KIDS TO STAY FIT
Here’s a bit of trivia: today’s employed mother spends as much time with her kids as her stay-at-home counterpart spent forty or fifty years ago. Even if you learned about past generations primarily through old sitcoms, you know that the June Cleavers of those days didn’t devote every waking hour to counseling and educating their children. More often, they sent the kids out to play so Mom could be free of interruptions while cleaning house, preparing her contribution to the church fair, or visiting with her own friends.
“Sending kids out to play” is a lost art these days. Even apart from worries about speeding cars or dangerous strangers, most parents find it easier to get the kids out from underfoot by letting them watch television or play with a computer; or else they feel obligated to engage their children in something “productive.” Unfortunately, much of what parents call “productive” follows the same line of thinking that has infested today’s workplaces and schools: work the mind nonstop and let the body worry about itself.
How different from the days when kids were allowed to exercise their own imaginations inventing active games. And how detrimental to body and mind alike.
" Regardless of your family situation, every child (and parent) needs to make physical fitness a primary life value. Physically fit people are not only healthier and more energetic: they’re happier, more confident, and also more innovative and intelligent. They even sleep better. "
If your family has been neglecting physical fitness, here are a few ways to get your kids (and yourself) back into the habit.
Leave Work at Work
Granted, this isn’t 100 percent possible, especially if your kids’ school assigns regular homework. But at least allow some playtime after school rather than insisting all homework be finished immediately. Take an after-work physical activity break yourself. And make sure that any work, study, or extra-credit projects brought home are genuinely important and don’t take up every available hour.
Schedule Regular, and Truly Active, Family Activities
Take walks together. Go for a family swim. Play Red Rover or volleyball. Sign up for a ropes course. Go camping or visit a sports resort, or take a bike tour, for your family vacation. Write these activities into your calendar and commit yourself to saying, “Sorry, that time is scheduled” when asked to volunteer for something or work late. (Believe me, your kids’ health and your family togetherness are at least as important as getting ahead in your career.)
Ask Your Doctor
If your kids, or even more you yourself, have been habitually sedentary for months/years, don’t just plunge into vigorous exercise: demanding too much too soon is an invitation to real injury. Ask your family physician about planning a physical-activity program that works for your household. Also, don’t rush to buy fancy equipment or a gym membership: stay with no-cost activities until you know what you really enjoy.
Adults as well as kids get much more from—and stick with—physical activities they truly enjoy. Choose “exercise” that feels like play rather than work, and it’ll pay double dividends!