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How To Help Your Kids be More Active

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Last week I was fortunate enough to present to a lovely bunch of ladies on Family Fitness for the charity Blue Smile.  Part of my talk was looking at physical activity in kids and how to encourage kids to lead healthier lives.  So over the next 2 weeks I will sum up the the key principles of fitness in kids

Recommended activity levels for kids varies as they get older with preschoolers being active throughout the day - mix of just moving about, to running etc.  Unless sleeping, they shouldn't regularly be stationary for longer than one hour.  Once they start school, all kids should do 1 hour’s accumulated intense physical activity EVERY day. This can be made up of playing in the play ground, PE, playing at home etc.  As they near puberty, they should also include 3 stretch sessions a week.  This doesn't mean getting them in the gym, but simply including exercises that help to strengthen muscles and bones - running, jumping, dance, gymnastics, most physical sports etc.

Physical activity is exactly that - activity that is physical.  It is not all about sport, but getting the body moving, the heart pumping, the lungs working and the muscles firing.  With kids of a certain age we assume that sport covers that which is fine if we have kids that conform to the normal school sports.  but what if they don't like sport, aren't 'sporty' or hate PE at school?  Life is a little trickier, and we need to look at some simple strategies to help encourage more active lives.

Kids love role models
World renowned psychologist, Bandura, explains that kids learn a new skill by watching, imagining doing it, practising it and being praised for trying, so as parents we start as their first role models.  If we lead active lives, we are encouraging our kids to follow us.  It doesn't mean we have to take up a new sport but grab the bike and go for a ride, walk to the shop, dance away to your favourite tunes etc

Encourage play
Play is one of the best forms of physical activity for younger kids.  Try and dedicate 30min each day for play.  This can be at the park, at home or in your garden.  There are some simple games, like the old favourites - tag, stuck in the mud, hopscotch, skipping, Grandma's footsteps, as well as newer more inventive games.  We have started a new
pinterest board for those looking suggestions

Practice
If your child is learning a new skill or struggling with an old one, make sure you allow time for them to practise away from the pressure of peers and school.  Grab a ball and play catch in a evening, or do running races at weekend etc.  One key point to make sure these sessions don't end in tears - this is about practice NOT coaching.  You are simply giving your child the time and space to try out the new skill, rather than it becoming a structured session

Equipment
Nope, you don't need to go and buy an astro turf or netball post, but some balls, buckets, hula hoops etc can make excellent props for a game that kids will make up.  They are incredibly imaginative so it doesn't need to be anything fancy, but having no kit will get a little boring and restrictive after a while.

Motivation
Kids love praise, so make sure you let them know when they have done well.  They don't need to have won, but just tried.  Nothing is better than a beaming smile when you have told your child what a lovely pass that was, even if they failed to catch it previously, or how much they have improved.  Remember this is about physical activity, not sport!!

Try something new
Schools can only cover so many sports in their curriculum, but how do you know you haven't given birth to the next GB powerlifter, budding badminton player or next Bradley Wiggins if you don't introduce your child to new sports, no matter how obscure they may seem.  Look locally for introduction sessions (which quite often are free) and go and see if your child loves something a little different.  We have added another
pinterest board to give you some sporting suggestions.

Grab your shorts, lace up your shoes and go and see what fun you can have playing with your kids. It will improve your fitness too.

Next week we will look at what to watch out for with Sporty kids. After all parenthood is never plain sailing ;-)