After binge-reading a pile of medieval fiction, I am so grateful that we now live in convenient times. I don’t have to labour for hours to get a meal on the table; current drugs can wipe out illnesses that used to threaten whole families; we have gadgets to make life a thousand times easier…just a few modern wonders people of the 15th century would have killed for.
But life has certain basic truths…one, that there are always two sides to a coin and two, most everything has its price. The other side of modern convenience is a population bred on extremely decreased physical activity, the price of which is the ubiquitous rise of heretofore uncommon diseases such obesity and diabetes. What is most unfortunate is that these diseases aren’t restricted to middle-aged adults. We have been seeing a disturbing trend of childhood obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease over the past decade.
With the prevalence of screen-based technology for entertainment, children have become more sedentary. The rapid global rise of E-sports can attest to this. Games such as League of Legends and DOTA have actually paved the way for a whole new industry of sit-down “sports.” Because a computer game often holds more allure than real sports that demand physical work, a lot of children today prefer to sit it out and lead a very sedentary existence. We, as parents, have more work cut out for us. We need to fight this technology trap that has been robbing our kids of their desire to engage in physical play.
How do we motivate our child to be more physically active? This is a question that has plagued us parents more today than it ever did just thirty years ago.
Enforce a Three-Hour Screen-time Rule
Entertainment has become more of a sit-down activity with the proliferation of screen gadgets that seem to do everything but spew out the popcorn. Strictly three hours max (lower if you can swing it) should be the total time your child can spend lolling around watching TV or playing video games. A gadget curfew may just force them to find more wholesome alternatives to keep themselves stimulated.
Find a Physical Activity Your Child Enjoys
This may entail a little experimentation to find the best fit, but your child is likely to engage in physical play if he enjoys what he does. Make sure that the activity is age appropriate. Never force your eight -year-old to do a 3k run, unless he absolutely wants to or bring a twelve-year-old to lift some weights at the gym. Instead, find game sports like football where he may form new friends and consequently become more likely to stick to the activity. Even simple biking around the neighbourhood is a decades-old way for your kid to have fun and keep fit and healthy.
Be Active Yourself
A couch potato breeds not an active child. As a parent, you are the child’s primary role model, so walk that talk. Lead an active lifestyle yourself so your kids can mimic your example. Find an activity you and your child will enjoy. Try camping, hiking, or even setting aside an hour for one-on-one basketball at your garage. Find a form of exercise your whole family can enjoy and bond over. An active family is a happy, healthy one.
Give Toys that Get Kids to Move
Encourage more movement by getting toys that do so. The old skip rope, hula hoop, trampoline, and ball are tried and tested fitness equipment. That is why they even have these in gyms.
Make active playtime a part of your child’s daily schedule. Don’t cram his week with activities that leave him too tired for running, jumping, or rolling around the lawn with his friends. Factor in rest time as well as muscles need to recover. Violin lessons right after football may not be a good idea for instance if done regularly. You may have a burn-out situation if the mind is not made to rest as well.
Not all physical activity needs to be vigorous. For kids aged 5-18 years old, activities can range from moderate to intense, depending on their fitness level. It is important to tell your child to listen to his body. Play is not a “no pain, no gain” activity. The child should know when to rest and when he can keep going.
For your child to lead a healthy life, healthy habits must be encouraged early on in his life. An active lifestyle, a balanced diet, and the value of sleep should be the tenets you teach him to form his foundation for lifelong health.