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Fun Family Fitness

by Kids on Track (follow)
Ariella Lew; BSC Paediatric Nurse
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We're right in the middle of summer holidays, and parents are looking for inspiration around what to do to keep their kids active, outdoors and importantly, having fun! The rates of childhood obesity are higher than ever in history and many studies link this to the number of hours per day children and teenagers are spending watching screens and sitting still. There is no question that making physical activity a part of our tremendously pressured daily lives is vitally important but it can also be very difficult.
Children and teenagers who aren't naturally sporty or flexible, often feel there is no exercise that they will enjoy and therefore resist when you suggest things. I was no different as a child but I do remember family bike rides on Sundays and family tennis games on family holidays. I think that making exercise fun and exciting for children of any age is key to winning their compliance and it is also important to be willing to think outside the box to enable them to get the amount of physical activity they need per day.
From a young age children and teenagers need approximately 60 minutes of exercise every day but as they grow older this becomes harder to achieve. With younger children as they learn new movements and skills, the challenge this poses to the body will cause their heart rates to rise. Younger children are also naturally more flexible but if this flexibility is not worked on, it can decrease over time. Encouraging children and teenagers to become involved in activities such as gymnastics; yoga and martial arts, can help maintain this.
Everyone has parts of the body that are physically stronger and therefore different sports will appeal to different people depending on these strengths. Enable your child / teenager to be involved in what they enjoy which will in turn help them to get more activity. Make sure there is time in their and your schedule for practices and coaching and matches.
I have met very few children who don't love a trampoline - it is easy physical exertion that can be done at home and if you have the space, think about what other equipment could be there which would encourage your children to exercise and keep active. As they get older, their peer level and interests may encourage them to form preferences to things such as skateboarding; ice skating; or rollerblading and these are all things that will count towards their 60 minute goal!
I think though that above all, exercise and physical activity needs to be something that is a normal and exciting part of family life and socialising. Whether a bike ride to a picnic spot or playing Nintendo Wii with friends, the more enjoyable it is; the more likely it is that your child or teenager will be able to stay in great shape and have a healthy attitude towards exercise. With long summer days and no school for a few weeks yet, this is the perfect opportunity to try out some family fitness activities!

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