How to Raise an Active Child

Kids today are slowing down and the expansion of their waistlines is speeding up. Childhood obesity rates are soaring, with over one-third of Canadian children being overweight and about half of these now considered obese. Recent statistics also show that kids aren’t active enough—38% of obese children are active and 47% of non-obese children are active. Instead of participating in physical education, after school sports or having fun at parks, kids are choosing to play video games, surf the Internet and watch TV. Let Truestar help you to get your kids healthy and moving by teaching you how to raise an active child.

Regular exercise has numerous benefits for our children, including weight control, building strong bones, preventing chronic diseases, improving mental health, better sleep habits and academic performance. Follow these tips to raising an active child:

• Put limits on sedentary activities. One major factor in the obesity crisis is the amount of time kids spend watching TV or on the computer. Studies show that more than 60% of childhood obesity is directly linked to too much television. In fact, the obesity rate rises 2% for each hour of television watched a day. Limiting time spent in front of the TV or computer will free up time so your child can engage in physical activities each day.

• Encourage “fun” activities. Kids love to have a good time and will likely engage in activities they see as fun. Promote free play activities including tag, hide and seek, jump rope, hopscotch or ball, as well as after-school sports of interest to them. If your kids enjoy what they are doing, they will most likely continue to do them in the future– burning calories and improving fitness and health as they do.

• Model an active lifestyle. Be a good role model—kids will do as you do, not as you say! Studies show that children of parents who exercise are six times more likely to be active than children whose parents are sedentary. Show your kids the joy and fun associated with physical activity, as this just might prompt them to turn off the TV or computer to join in on the fun. Go for walks in the park together, family bike rides or other activities that can be done together.

• Lobby for physical education in school. It’s a sad fact that in Ontario, the number of schools with physical education teachers has dropped 26% in five years. In fact, only 18% of elementary schools report a full-time physical education teacher. Parents must work with the schools to increase the number and hours of physical education classes. Contact you local Parent-Teacher-Student Association and school boards if you are concerned about the physical education offerings in your area.

• Start physical activity young. Getting children involved in regular physical activity early on will help ensure these habits carry on throughout their lives. For your toddler, play active fun games such as hopping like a bunny or have contests to see how far or high they could jump. When they get older, walk with your child to school, make your child responsible for some daily chores, encourage after-school activities or enroll them in sports leagues in the neighborhood. The list is endless, so find the activities that fit into your family’s lifestyle and enjoy! For more information, see “Physical Activity and Childhood Obesity,” Part 1 and Part 2.

Bottom Line

Raising a child who has learned to incorporate physical activity into their everyday lifestyle is a key factor for their future health. The Truestar Health plan of a healthy diet, supplements, exercise, sleep and a healthy mind can play an important role in your child’s health.