As a children’s karate instructor, it breaks my heart to see any child struggling to move during class. It’s difficult to watch a beautiful 7 year old who has a hard time running, jumping and playing because of they are overweight. When a child tells me “I’m too big to do that” while in 1st grade, I know we have to do more to help them.
There are many strong emotions and opinions about childhood obesity. However, I believe when we see the statistics we understand many have somehow gone off track in this area. Here’re a few statistics from the CDC that help put this into perspective:
- Obesity in adolescents has more than doubled and quadrupled in the past 30 years
- Obesity in kids aged 6-11 went from 7% in 1980 to almost 18% in 2012
- Obesity in adolescents aged 12-19 increased from 5% to almost 21% during the same time-frame
We all want our kids to grow up healthy and getting kids to move is a large part of living a healthy lifestyle. Here’re a few simple ways to get more movement into your child’s daily life:
Don’t Rely on PE Classes or Recess
Budget cuts and changing academic priorities have reduced the amount of exercise offered at public schools and the amount of recess has lowered over the years. But let’s give schools a break as they are tasked with the impossible – expectations that they will teach everything to your child in about 6 hours a day.
Instead of relying on school for activity, start incorporating fitness into your family’s life. This can include organized sports or lessons like dance, karate or gymnastics. You don’t even have to leave the house, as programs like Born to Move by Les Mills has videos for kids as young as 2-3 years old. You can also create an exercise space filled with jump ropes, balls, skates, and bikes. As a whopping 80% of kids are not getting enough exercise every day, it’s up to us to learn new ways to get kids moving.
Create Opportunities for Free-Range Play
Getting kids to move doesn’t always mean organized sports or purposeful classes. The world is changing and hanging out with neighborhood kids has evolved into scheduled playdates.
While this isn’t bad, it has decreased the opportunity for kids to just go be kids.
Take your child to the park and spend an hour playing on the swing sets, slides and monkey bars. Stop by the beach, even when it’s too cold to swim, and explore the waterfront. Go to the local high school track and run laps or try the long jump. Of course, you could still let them outside to play in the yard but that can get boring. So start exploring your local area for places that your kid would love to run around crazy for an hour or two.
Join in the Fun
If you want your child to move more, get out there and move more with them! Set the example. Together you could throw a ball or frisbee, play tennis (maybe badly) on a local court, or even start hiking local trails. You can even get fitness trackers and have a friendly competition. Unicef has a Kid Power Band that works with a cool app to go on missions, earn points while helping kids around the world.
Creating a Different Lifestyle
There’s a lot of complex reasons why our children are becoming more obese. Big socio-economical, cultural and technological reasons. Getting our kids moving every day is only one piece of the puzzle.
But it’s one of the most important parts.
Get your kid involved in creating a more active lifestyle. Choose activities they like to do, even if that means you’re now hunting Pokemon to get exercise. Make a plan that fits your family and takes advantage of your local area’s offerings. It won’t happen overnight, but I firmly believe that all kids find joy in moving. We just need to help them along the way.