Research shows that the best way to encourage your child to be active, is to live an active lifestyle yourself.
As parents, we all want the best for our kids. We want them to have the best education possible. We spend time preparing nutritious foods, and we encourage them to become resilient, well-rounded individuals. In short, we want them to live happy and healthy lives.
But how much attention do we pay to their activity levels?
Our sedentary kids
Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle—for both adults and children. However, only 19 per cent of Aussie kids aged 5–17 years, and 18 per cent of young people aged 12–17 years, meet the national daily physical activity guidelines of accumulating at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day of the week.
That means over 80 per cent of our kids are not getting enough exercise.
Why exercise is important for adults and kids
Lack of physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. Those who fail to get enough activity have a 20-30 per cent increased risk of death, compared to people who are sufficiently active.
Furthermore, children reap many benefits when they exercise regularly, including:
- healthy growth and development
- achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- strong bones and muscles
- cardiovascular fitness
- balance, coordination and strength
- maintaining and developing flexibility
- improved posture
- gross motor and fine motor skills
- fundamental movement skills
- establishing connections between different parts of the brain
- improved concentration and thinking skills
- improved confidence and self-esteem
- stress relief
- social skills and friendships
- improved sleep.
Lead by example
While we all want our kids to exercise regularly, research shows that parents are the primary influence as to whether or not children participate in physical exercise. Children whose parents support their physical activity are more likely to be active, than children who are not supported by their parents.
While earlier research found that parents didn’t need to be active themselves in order to positively impact their children’s physical activity, new research from the Australian Sports Commission has found the more involved a parent is in children’s physical activity, the more likely the child is to be active.
The research found that 72 per cent of children with at least one active parent, engaged in organised sport or physical activity outside of school. Meanwhile only 53 per cent of children who have at least one inactive parent, will be active.
Being involved is the key
Being an active parent will go a long way towards encouraging your child to enjoy physical activity. However, being actively involved in organised sport is even better. Around 66 per cent of kids who have one parent playing organised sport, will also participate. This jumps to 89 per cent when their parent is involved as both a player and as a volunteer. So if you’ve been wondering if you should help manage your kid’s basketball team, put your hand up!
Make it fun
Of course, not everyone can, or wants to play organised sport. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy regular physical activity, and reap the benefits too. The key to encouraging your children to be active for life is to show them it’s a fun, normal part of life— and be active yourself.
Exercising as a family is a great way to establish good, active habits. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to get physical activity without needing to play competitive sport. Here are some ideas to get you thinking.
When you’re at the beach:
- go for a swim, hire a kayak or a stand-up-paddleboard, play cricket or volleyball, walk along the beach.
When you’re at the park:
- kick a footy, throw a ball, fly a kite, toss a Frisbee, walk the dog, use the playground.
When you’re in the snow:
- ski, toboggan, build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or go walking.
When you’re at home:
- jump rope, play hide-and-seek, plant a garden, dig some weeds, sweep a patio, rake leaves, paint a fence, dance in the living room, play tiggy in the backyard, go for a walk after dinner.
When you go out:
- ride bikes along the river, go bowling, kayaking, abseiling, hiking, or indoor rock climbing, do a fun run, abseil, take a walking tour of your city.
Learn a new sport:
- take up karate or yoga, learn how to swim, join a footy team, take up dancing, have golf lessons, learn how to play tennis, join a basketball league.
Your child’s attitude towards physical activity is likely to mirror your own. By being more active yourself, you’re not only improving your own health, but you’re positively influencing your children to develop a love of exercise, so they can be active and healthy for life.