Children and adults should aim to be physically active at least 60 minutes each day. Defined as anything that gets your body moving, children and adults should aim to raise their heart rate and lightly sweat.
Support your family’s efforts to be active every day. Make a goal to move more as a family. Spend less time in front of TV, computer, and game console screens. Create active time to spend with your child and, most importantly, remember to make fitness fun for everyone.
- Make family time active time.
Activity habits that are formed during early childhood increase the likelihood of being an active adult. Help your child develop a lifelong love of physical activity and meet the goal of 60 minutes a day.
Make physical activity a family affair – start by setting a goal to move more as a family. If 60 minutes of activity seems overwhelming, start with small increments of 5 to 10 minutes and gradually increase this time to 20 to 30 minute sessions to achieve 60 minutes each day.
Most importantly, find ways to be active that are fun – shoot hoops, take a bike ride, walk the dog, or just get out and play! Try new activities like skateboarding, in-line skating, yoga, swimming, and dance.
Try the following activities together, or come up with some on your own to make fitness fun for everyone:
- Walk or bike to the store, school, park, library, or community event.
- Explore close-to-home parks and trails for a fun and free activity.
- Dance to your favorite tunes or build a fort indoors.
- Celebrate special occasions – birthdays, holidays, anniversaries – with something active, such as a hike, bike ride, or Frisbee® game.
- Walk or play with your pet; explore new walking routes and parks with your dog.
- Friendly competition is fun! See who can shovel the tallest snow pile or rake the most leaves.
Keep track of family activity levels by posting an activity log on the refrigerator and acknowledge the person(s) who achieve it regularly.
As a parent or caregiver, role modeling an active lifestyle is important too. Schedule some time to be active on your own – show your children you are committed to being active too.
Most importantly, support your child in being active – whether playing with friends or participating in organized physical activities.
- Reduce screen time.
Increases in technology have left many children adopting sedentary lifestyles. In fact, children regularly spend more than 1,023 hours in front of the TV in a given year, that’s 123 hours more than the spend in school during a year.
There are ways to set limits on screen time that are fun and easy to follow, which may help children miss it less – or not at all.
Screen time is defined as any inactive time that involves a media “screen.” Examples include TV, video games, hand-held video games, text messaging, DVDs, and computer use not related to school.
As a family, discuss different ways you will all be able to limit screen time:
- Instead of spending a rainy Saturday in front of the TV, head to the bowling alley for an active family outing.
- Determine “media” free zones like bedrooms and the kitchen. Ask family members to report on their day during meals.
- Make a game of weekend yard work – rake leaves and have fun jumping in the pile.
- Consider active alternatives like playing Frisbee or walking the dog.
- Play a board game, cook, listen to music, or volunteer in your local community.
Remember, balance is key – media use does not need to be all-or-nothing. Media can play an important role in teaching children critical lessons, so choose your family’s media choices wisely.
- Select the right activities for your children.
In addition to active family fun, it’s important for children to also try other forms of activity. Children don’t need expensive lessons and equipment to participate in regular physical activity. Moving is what kids do naturally when given the opportunity to spend time outdoors.
Help children with active play by having a selection of games, toys, and low-cost equipment on hand to engage them, including:
- Jump rope
- Hula hoop
- Sidewalk chalk.
Community activities are another great way for children to learn different recreation skills. Contact the local community recreation center to find free or low-cost classes that help youth learn basic skills while having fun.
Many school-age children also enjoy organized activities. For example, playing on a sports team can teach children about sportsmanship and teamwork while building self esteem. For younger school-age children (5-8 years), noncompetitive sports leagues where children can learn basic skills and have fun in a supportive environment are best. For older school-age children (9-12 years) competitive team sports are appropriate, but should still emphasize fun and learning.
Helping a child choose the right type of activity is as important as doing the activity. Take into account the child’s interest, physical and mental abilities, body type and temperament when selecting an activity. Help guide their choice by offering appropriate options, but the decision should be largely left to the child.
Whether playing with friends or participating in organized physical activities, supporting children being active for 60 minutes a day will help them to maintain a healthy weight as they grow, build skills and confidence, and develop a lifelong healthy habit of moving.