I think this is my favorite week of the challenge — encouraging exercise and activity for everyone in the family.
American kids ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media including TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies. That puts them at all sorts of risk — high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, overweight, low confidence, and low self-esteem to name a few.
You know I’ve told you that adults need at least 21 minutes of exercise a day (and that the resulting 2.5 hours of exercise a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by half). Kids and teens, though, need more. Kids should be moving at least 60 minutes a day, and if they can’t get that all at one time (recess is ever-shorter and only a couple gym classes a week is now the norm), two 30 minute blocks, or even four 15-minute blocks will work too.
Kids need to move, and once they do it, they love it. Here are some tips from the American Heart Association for getting going with your kids:
- Identify free times for activity during the week. Learn how to find time to get the whole family heart healthy.
- Make a plan to add physical activity to your daily routine.
- Be active with your kids. Experts say that what kids want more than anything else is time with their parents. To give them that, don’t just send them out to play — go play with them!
- Develop a set of activities for you and your family that are always available regardless of weather.
- Limit TV, computer, and video game time. Don’t position your furniture so the TV is the main focus of the room. Remove televisions from bedrooms. And remember to avoid using TV/games/computer time as a reward or punishment.
- Plan TV watching in advance. Turn the TV on for those shows and turn it off afterwards. Don’t just watch
whatever comes on next.
- Practice what you preach. Your kids won’t accept being restricted to two hours of TV watching if you can veg out for four hours. The best way to influence your kids’ behavior is through example.
Here are some ideas that your kids can do on their own or the whole family can do together:
- Playing baseball, soccer, tennis, hockey, or basketball
- Hiking, running, or bike rides
- Walking the dog
- Visiting a parks or playground
- Turning on the music and dancing around the house
- Doing chores that require some physical activity
Get more resources about this week’s challenge from the American Heart Association’s Healthier Kids website.