At two years old, my son can already do more hanging leg raises than I can do. That may sound surprising, but playtime and activity is important. After all, being active is a natural impulse for young kids. As parents, it’s our job to make sure that activity continues into adolescence and beyond—their health may depend on it. According to new research, childhood obesity rates are on the rise.
Now here’s the good news: Raising healthy kids doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. The key is to work more movement into everyday events. Not sure where to start? Here’s how my wife and I make fitness a family affair.
1. Create New Routines
Every morning, my son and I head to the coffee shop a block away. The short walk allows us to get in steps and spend time together. Plus, it comes with a small reward: dark roast for me and steamed milk for him. Then we walk back. All together, he gets about 1,400 steps each way. This small task might seem trivial, but it gets our day off to an active start. The best part? My kids can now think of walks as adventures with concrete goals. If your kids like to challenge themselves, consider getting them a Fitbit Ace (ages 8+) so they can track their steps and active minutes. The positive reinforcement that on-device celebrations and virtual badges provide can help create healthy habits that don’t feel like work.
2. Encourage Organized Sports
My wife and I have enrolled our kids in everything from soccer and basketball to tap and ballet. We try to expose them to different activities so they can find a couple that they like. Team sports and classes help familiarize kids with the positive, dynamic energy of a group while getting their heart rate up and feel-good endorphins flowing. If joining an organized sport or taking a class isn’t possible, try to do your best to limit screen time and maximize active play at home.
3. Teach Them About Healthy Foods
In our house we don’t believe in restricting foods. Instead, we encourage our kids to make healthy choices and recognize treats as an occasional splurge. Ice cream, pizza, and cookies are all fair game, as long as they’re active and the majority of their food choices are healthy ones. We often walk with our kids to the grocery store, let them pick out their favorite fruits and veggies, and then make smoothies together. That way, they get in steps and learn how delicious healthy foods can be.
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