Tips to Integrate Physical Activity into a Child’s Life

In Michigan, nearly one in three school-aged children are considered overweight or obese. This poses a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic conditions. September, known as Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, emphasizes the importance of regular exercise and healthy eating.

The overall goal is to empower children to be their happiest and healthiest, while engaging in physical activities and making nutritious food choices. Here’s how parents can help combat the obesity epidemic by inspiring their children to be more active:

  • Be a Role Model: Parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives. Demonstrate healthy habits by eating and serving balanced meals and exercising regularly. Having a positive attitude toward physical activity and one’s body image will change their view and inspire participation.
  • Disconnect to Reconnect: Computers, smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of kids’ daily routines. Therefore, it’s important to enforce the occasional break to reconnect with the real world. Children should experience non-technology-based activities that require moderate to intense movement.
  • Don’t Focus on Weight: Be careful not to obsess over numbers, specifically a child’s weight. Through observation, they may develop a critical link between body size and self-worth. Instead, parents should focus on healthy habits and emphasize feeling good.
  • Encourage the Whole Family: When dealing with multiple children, try not to target one child more than another. It can generate feelings of isolation and have a negative impact on their self-esteem. Getting active should be a family affair that’s inclusive and empowering. Throughout the process, everyone’s presence should be equally valued.
  • Find the Right Activity: Kids will be more excited to exercise if they’re doing something they love. Encourage them to try different activities such as team sports or individual sports like dance, martial arts or golf. But if they’re not interested, don’t force it. Keep an open mind and allow them to be your guide. When choosing an activity, consider their age, personality, cognitive and physical abilities. Remember: There is something for everyone.
  • Get the School Involved: Obesity is a major issue that goes beyond a child’s physical health. It can affect their energy levels, concentration and ability to perform in school. That’s why organizations, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, have programs dedicated to helping schools and parents implement a healthier lifestyle. Blue Cross’ Building Healthy Communities initiative teaches students how to make better food choices, while improving accessibility.
  • Make it Fun: Exercise should not be viewed as a punishment. It should be a fun addition to any child’s regular routine. Also, physical activity doesn’t have to take place in a gym or on a field. There are many ways to be active in or around the home including:
    • Backyard obstacle course
    • Chore contest
    • Dance party
    • Family bike ride
    • Gardening
    • Jump rope
    • Post-dinner walk
    • Yoga

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Photo credit: fizkes

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