Childhood obesity is a complex issue. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly one in five school-aged children has obesity in the United States. That number has nearly tripled since the 1970’s.
What is obesity? It’s defined as having excess body fat. To figure out if a person is obese, their body mass index (or BMI) can be used as a screening tool. Body mass index is measured by a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of a person’s height in meters.
Obesity in children comes with a slew of health consequences- mental, physical, and emotional. Obese children are at a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions. These conditions and diseases include diabetes, sleep apnea, and a higher risk of heart disease. The risk for asthma and even bone and joint problems is also increased in children with obesity.
But physical health problems are not the only consequences childhood obesity presents. The physiological impacts of childhood obesity can be extremely damaging. Obese kids are much more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, low self esteem and even a lower quality of life. They’re much more likely to get teased and bullied in school than their normal weight peers. And in the long term, an obese child has a higher chance of being obese as an adult. This sets up a child for more problems as an adult, as obese adults are much more likely to develop health issues such as heart disease and many types of cancers.
Our kids model our behavior. If we are leading unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles, our children are more prone to following in our footsteps. It’s crucial to show our children how to live a healthy lifestyle, and help them develop healthy habits for life. It’s not always easy to instill healthy choices for kids though. Getting our kids to eat fruits and vegetables over cakes and cookies can be just as tough as keeping them off their iPad and out in the yard instead.
The good news is that children are naturally inclined to be active, play, and be outdoors! The trick to encouraging outdoor play and physical activity is to remove electronic devices! In this age of social media prevalence, these electronic devices seem to be finding themselves in front of children everywhere. This isn’t to say that all electronic devices like television, tablet, or video games shall not be permitted at all. Everything is OK in moderation, and that includes fun electronic devices. But we need to be monitoring how often our kids are sitting in front of them.
To prevent our kids from turning into the unhealthiest generation, and keeping their heads in real life and not in the unrealistic life expectations of social media, we need to encourage them to experience the outdoors, and get some exercise! Exercise is mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially productive. Let’s make physical activity fun for kids; here’s 10 fun ways to exercise as a family!
1. Cycle Together!
Bicycling around as a family can be a super fun and exciting way to get around and run errands! Bikes can be kind of spendy, but the investment is worth it for a variety of reasons. Bicycles last forever if you take relatively good care of them, and cycling is a great way to exercise.
Taking your bikes to the local park instead of driving saves gas, promotes healthy activity, and gives you and your family a time to be together outdoors and bond. You just can’t put a price tag on that. The bike will serve your kid for years to come, and they can even take it to school or a friend’s house if it’s a near distance away.
2. Swimming Lessons At The Pool.
Taking swimming lessons, or just going to the local community pool as a family can be tons of fun. Swimming is considered the best full body exercise out there, and few exercises can match the benefits of swimming. Going for a swim engages all of your muscles, from top to bottom. It is the only exercise that is equally as tough on your upper body as it is on your lower body, while being extremely gentle on joints.
Now onto other benefits: the kiddos will have an appetite and be open to trying out those veggies for dinner! Plus, they’ll be so worn out after swimming at the pool, you won’t have any trouble putting them to bed! The beauty of going for a swim with the family is that you’re all going to be reaping the benefits of this awesome exercise, while having so much fun you won’t even realize it’s an exercise.
3. Team Sports.
Involving your family in team sports can be super fun and entertaining, while providing an excellent workout. Divide the family into teams, and engage in some friendly competition! Play sports like soccer, tennis, football- really the possibilities are endless.
There’s no reason to exclude the kids from certain yard work and chores around the home. Gardening and outdoor work are excellent forms of exercise. Don’t think for one second that children won’t find outdoor work interesting. The trick is so provide them with fun tools they can use to maintain their own gardens.
Purchase a few small shovels, some fruit and veggie plants, or their favorite flowers and have them plant these things for themselves. They’ll have so much fun watching their hard work grow, and then harvesting and eating the goodies! It’ll be such a rewarding experience, and teach them how to take care of something special.
5. Walking The Family Pet.
If you have a dog and are tired of taking it out on a walk several times a day, why not let your children do the walking instead? Designating a time of the day whether it’s morning or evening to walk the family dog is teaching them responsibility. They’ll feel extra good knowing they’re taking care of man’s best friend, and they’ll feel even better after getting some fresh air and exercise outside. Of course, depending on the distance of the walk and age of the child, you’ll want to go along for the walk.
6. Ice Or Roller Rink.
There’s nothing like masking exercise with fun! Taking the family ice skating or roller skating/ roller blading at a rink brings laughter, makes memories, and burns calories! It’s an inexpensive exercise and activity that brings the family together. You can purchase some skates, or rent them out. Skating is a much better option for a party than being sedentary and watching a movie. Take lots of pictures!
7. Play A Fitness Video Game
If you must stay indoors on a rainy day or evening, instead of turning to time-wasting video games, play an active video game like a fitness game or Wii. You can play sports like tennis, badminton, or bowl!
8. Do Water Sports.
The lake is full of activities for the young and the old! Aside from swimming, which is an excellent exercise in itself, most beach parks or lakes offer equipment and rentals. Canoeing, going on a four seater paddle boat, kayaking, or stand up paddling are all super fun and invigorating activities to enjoy as a family.
9. Join A Class Together.
If your children are old enough, join a class together as a family. Gyms offer classes like yoga, or spin class. Dance class is another fun option! Being a part of a class can build confidence, and encourage social skills. The class can work as a motivator to lose weight if the kids are overweight or obese, and increase their self esteem.
10. Walk Together.
Finally, something as simple as taking a walk together to a local park as a family can be a bonding, relaxing family activity. No reason why you shouldn’t take the baby! There are jogging strollers available so the whole family can come along on a breezy summer evening stroll.