For some kids, going back to school means transitioning from an active summer spent outdoors to several hours of sedentary time each day. For others, this time of year means a return to sports and after-school activities following three months of binge-watching TV shows and playing video games. In either scenario, it’s important for parents to establish a routine and introduce a variety of ways to get – or keep – their kids active. Here’s how you can help your children live a more active lifestyle throughout the school year – no matter their age:
1. Walk or bike to and from school.
Active commuting is a great way to establish a healthy routine in which you serve as a fit role model for your youngsters. It’s also the perfect time to prepare your kids for the day ahead and get the lowdown on what they’ve learned. Of course, safety is an issue in many communities, so be sure that the route you travel is walkable (or bikeable) and take the time to teach younger kids the rules of the road like looking both ways before crossing the street.
2. Try a new activity with each season.
If your child is an athlete who is looking forward to a spring sport like soccer, introduce him or her to a fall activity like intramural flag football or pickup basketball. Variety is key for young athletes, as most experts advise against specializing too early or focusing on the same sport year-round. Even non-athletes should try different sports or activities in order to learn fundamental fitness skills they can carry into adulthood. Who knows? They may even find a new passion along the way. Be sure to learn about after-school clubs, community-based opportunities and other local activity options. Remember, the key here is to encourage your kids to get outside, get involved and get moving. Competition isn’t essential and doesn’t fit many kids’ personalities.
If your child is less active than most, he may just not have found an activity he loves. Remind kids that physical activity comes in many forms, not just the school-based sports they might find too difficult or intimidating. Hiking, dancing, martial arts and roller skating are great examples of active alternatives. Unfortunately, as kids get older, more and more of them drop out of organized sports because they aren’t skilled enough to compete or they just lose interest. It’s sometimes up to the parents to inspire them to try something new.
4. Don’t be afraid of resistance training.
There is a long-standing myth that resistance training (that is, lifting weights) can stunt children’s growth and therefore isn’t safe until after puberty. That’s simply untrue. There is no set age when kids can begin lifting weights, but a good rule of thumb is that they can start once they are able to focus and take instruction from a qualified teacher or coach; the importance of proper technique and appropriate intensity cannot be overemphasized. Resistance training can improve kids’ body composition (think: less fat, more muscle), boost their motor skills (such as balance, coordination and other athletic abilities) and protect them from injuries. What’s more, resistance training can boost kids’ self-esteem and self-perception, leading to better psychological health and social skills.
Children who are struggling to achieve or maintain a healthy weight may be particularly good candidates for resistance training. While they often shy away from exercise and sports due to low self-confidence and perhaps an inability to participate fully, they very often excel relative to their peers when lifting weights. This experience can give them a self-esteem boost that carries over into other facets of their lives, and may lead them down a path to better health and fitness as they get older.
Many parents get caught up in the rules of the game and the structure of the activity. Meanwhile, most young kids just want to run around and be silly. Don’t forget that unless your child is part of a team and is learning to take instruction from a coach, the goal here is to get them moving. So if that means chasing their friends around the playground and going up and down the slide for what feels like the 100th time, let them be. Better yet, get off the park bench and join in!
Keeping your kids active will improve their strength and endurance, build healthy bones and muscles, help control their weight and improve their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It will also help reduce anxiety, stress and depression, while increasing self-esteem. I could go on. But perhaps more on point, regular physical activity may also help improve students’ academic performance, including grades, behavior, concentration and attentiveness. Once your kids find something they love – whether it’s mountain biking, Ultimate Frisbee or playing football under those Friday night lights – there’s nothing that can stop them from enjoying the many benefits of leading a physically active lifestyle.
This is a great article written by Cedrix X. Bryant and it offers lots of insight on how to keep the kids active. If your child is already active and looking to take things to the next level, contact Xcellerated Speed Training to help get your child there.