Child obesity has long passed the stage of a worrying trend and has now become a massive phenomenon in the UK, where one third of ten year old’s are clinically obese and staying obese for longer than ever before. As child obesity rates are soaring, Public Health England warns that half of the UK could be obese by 2020 and we need to take action now in order to stop this from happening. If part of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of public authorities, which needs to take measures such as raise awareness, limit children’s access to unhealthy foods at school and broadcast less fast food commercials, parents also play an important part in this equation. No matter how many efforts teachers and doctors make, family remains the biggest influence in a child’s life, so parents are encouraged to nurture their children’s love of sports and help them grow up active and healthy. Working out as a family can help you all stay in shape, while at the same time strengthening the family bonds. Here are a few ideas:
Join a family-friendly gym
If you’re already hitting the gym, or thinking of doing so, why not replace your individual training sessions with a program that caters to the needs of the entire family? Apart from keeping you healthy, going to the gym as a family also happens to be a huge time saver, because you no longer have to worry about finding someone to look after the kids while you’re away. Choose a timetable that works for everyone and, as parents do Pilates, Yoga or weight training, the kids will be supervised by professionals who teach them how to do light, age-appropriate exercise. Many gyms have specially arranged areas where kids can swim or play football under adult supervision and the even better news is that you usually get family discounts at gyms of this type, so it’s a win-win situation.
Go for walks together
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the main causes behind child obesity, and the fact that kids are tempted to stay indoors on their phone or console makes parents’ job all the more difficult. According to a recent study, children and teens are now as sedentary as 60-year olds, so leaving them to chat on scroll Facebook and play Candy Crush isn’t the best parenting decision. Instead, try to set a schedule and go for walks before or after dinner. By walking for as little as 30 minutes a day, you reduce the risk of chronic disease and obesity and instill healthy habits in your children’s life. If they’re not too excited about going for a walk, you can make it more exciting by role playing, competing or setting fun milestones.
Spend more time by the pool
A pool isn’t just a place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon doing nothing. On the contrary, a pool can be a great place to have fun with the kids while at the same time getting your healthy dose of physical fitness? For example, did you know that one single hour of swimming burns almost as many calories as jogging and works your entire muscle groups, but without feeling as tiresome? Swimming also reduces the risk of chronic diseases and is even suitable for kids with asthma, because it helps them expand their lung capacity and control their breathing – all this while being fun and exciting!
Family disco nights
Kids are naturally filled with energy and, if they’re having fun, they can be active for hours on end. The trick is finding an activity that’s both fun and healthy, so what can be better than dancing? Start a new family tradition by picking an evening for disco dancing and make it more fun by staging a dancing show or using flashlights as disco lights. Your kids won’t even feel the time pass as they jump around and when they have to go to bed, they will fall asleep immediately.
Turn chores into fun activities
Chores aren’t exactly an adult’s idea of having fun, but kids are actually quite open to helping their parents around the house because being entrusted with a responsibility boosts their self-esteem. You can use this proactive attitude to turn some chores into fun workouts that keep your children active throughout the day. Of course, always remember to entrust them only with age-appropriate tasks that don’t put them at risk:
- Let them join you for gardening. Although it’s a relatively passive activity, they get to spend time outdoors and, according to healthcare professionals, getting in contact with microbes in soil can have a positive impact on your health.
- In the winter, when you are shovelling snow, encourage kids to make snowmen and snow angels.
- Take your kids with you when walking the dog for a fun jogging workout.
- Let your kids jump around in piles of raked leaves in the autumn
- Teach your kids some of your favourite childhood games, such as skipping rope, tag, hide and seek, and Capture the Flag.