ABUNDANT LIVING: The wonder years — What kind of example are you setting?
Children — on a good day they are angels sent from heaven. At other times, however, they are like a plague of locusts devouring and destroying everything in their path. If you have ever seen my living room you would know of what I speak.
Whether we like it or not, children mimic everything we do, including our levels of physical activity. They watch us every second of every day even if it seems as though they are not paying attention. If we sit on the couch and watch TV, they will also want to watch TV.
Conversely, if we exercise regularly, eat whole foods and seek joy in life, they likely will do the same.
To teach kids to be active, we must start from the very beginning. I know that your thinking that you have worked all day and barely have enough energy to make dinner and yell at your older kids to do their homework.
Keep it simple. The whole point is just to get your kids moving and bond as a family.
The first thing I would try as a parent is to take everyone on a family walk. My wife and I would take my then 7-, 5-, and 3- year-old daughters, and my 3- month-old twin boys (now 21, 18, 16, 13 and 13) for a long walk in the countryside around our house.
It was quite the spectacle. The younger girls would hold hands and the boys would be in a double stroller. (I’ll be honest, as the boys grew, pushing them up hills got to be quite the workout.) Walks are great family time that also get all of you doing something physical.
My second tip to teach young children to become active is to actually play a game with them.
No, I didn’t say watch them play a game. Parents must participate. Throw out a soccer ball or play catch. Anything that you can do together to encourage them to keep moving instead of laying around. It doesn’t have to be long — 20 or 30 minutes a day is fine.
My last tip to lay the foundation for an active life is to workout with your kids. You might not get the best of workouts, but the point is to let them see you exercising and to build their confidence to do the same.
If you ever want to laugh your head off, pop in a yoga DVD and go through it with your 5-year-old. They will learn something new and love you for it.
Whether you teach your kids how to exercise formally or just encourage them to play outside, it is absolutely critical that you teach them to lead an active lifestyle. This has to be taught at home, by the parents, from the very beginning.
Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions and there doesn’t seem to be any improvement in the near future. We as parents cannot wait until our children have a weight problem, but rather must encourage and nurture healthy lifestyles through our words and actions.
Bellomo has a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, is a certified strength and condition specialist and performance enhancement specialist with 24 years in the fitness and wellness field. For more fitness tips contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.