How to get kids mov­ing

Tablets and smart­phones mak­ing your kids lazy and slug­gish? Here’s how par­ents and teach­ers can get chil­dren to hop, skip and jump their way to bet­ter health


IT STARTED off as a sim­ple plan to get the kids in her school mov­ing and turned into a multi-coun­try, multi-school ini­tia­tive. And it takes just 15 min­utes a day.

Elaine Wyl­lie, then prin­ci­pal of a pri­mary school in Scot­land, was wor­ried about the lack of ex­er­cise the kids in her school were get­ting. But it took a vol­un­teer phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher to spur her into ac­tion.

“Your chil­dren aren’t fit,” he told her. And if they weren’t fit in their pri­mary school years, the fu­ture didn’t bode well for them.

That same af­ter­noon Elaine told a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion class to run a lap around the sports field and she was stunned by the re­sults.

“By the end most of them were dou­bled up and had a stitch,” she re­calls. “It was a shock­ing sight.”

She then im­ple­mented a new rule: each day all the chil­dren would spend 15 min­utes out­side do­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that would build their fit­ness.

A month later al­most all the kids at St Ninian’s Pri­mary School could run steadily for 15 min­utes with­out stop­ping. It was the be­gin­ning of the Daily Mile, a con­cept of tak­ing a quar­ter of an hour of class­room time every day to let the kids run or walk laps of the play­ground. This was six years ago and to­day the ini­tia­tive has spread to more than 3 600 pri­mary schools in 35 coun­tries in­clud­ing Bel­gium, Canada, Aus­tralia and Croa­tia.

A study was re­cently con­ducted into the ben­e­fits of the Daily Mile and the re­sults were im­pres­sive.

Re­searchers looked at 391 chil­dren from two pri­mary schools in Scot­land, mon­i­tor­ing them for seven months af­ter they started the Daily Mile.

They found ac­tive kids could run 5% fur­ther in a timed run and that the pro­gramme en­cour­aged them to gen­er­ally be more ac­tive through­out the day.

Given the num­ber of over­weight kids in South Africa, it’s an ini­tia­tive that would go down well here too.

OBE­SITY lev­els in South Africa are alarm­ing by any mea­sure. The lat­est SA De­mo­graphic and Health sur­vey found that 13% of chil­dren are over­weight or obese – dou­ble the global av­er­age of 6%. Pro­fes­sor Alta Schutte of the SA Medical Re­search Coun­cil says over­weight kids “have a slim chance of be­ing lean as they age”.

“Ex­cess body weight is a huge prob­lem glob­ally and es­pe­cially in SA – we’re drown­ing at the mo­ment,” she says.

“If you’re obese as a child, the num­ber of to­tal fat cells in the body in­creases and stays the same when you get older. In lean chil­dren the num­ber of fat cells is lower, which gives them a much bet­ter chance of re­main­ing lean as they age.”

Tack­ling the prob­lem early on could pre­vent the rise of obe­sity rates, she adds. SA has the high­est over­weight and obe­sity rates in Africa with a stag­ger­ing 70% of women tip­ping the scales at a heav­ier weight than they should be.

So what can you do to en­sure your kids get of f the couch and start think­ing of ex­er­cise as part of daily life? HOW MUCH EX­ER­CISE IS NEEDED? Preschool­ers (aged 3-5) should be ac­tive for at least three hours a day spread through­out the day, says Na­dia Greyling of the Tri­fo­cus Fit­ness Academy in Jo­han­nes­burg. “These three hours should in­clude vig­or­ous ac­tiv­ity such as run­ning and jump­ing. Ac­tive play is the best way for young kids chil­dren to be phys­i­cally ac­tive.” Six- to 12-year-olds need at least an hour of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity a day. Most of the spec­i­fied hour should con­sist of mod­er­ate to vig­or­ous aer­o­bic ex­er­cises such as a brisk walk, a bike ride or a game of rugby, soc­cer or net­ball.

Chil­dren should also par­tic­i­pate in mus­cle-, core- and bone-strength­en­ing ac­tiv­i­ties at least three days a week. MAKE IT FUN Things were eas­ier in “the old days” – par­ents could tell their kids to go and ride their bikes around the block or run to the shop. But safety is an is­sue now. “How­ever, there are many con­trolled parks where peo­ple can run, walk, play on equip­ment and ride bikes,” Greyling says. Have them take part in cy­cling com­pe­ti­tions or kid-friendly races such as a lo­cal Parkrun, or sug­gest join­ing a club or or­gan­i­sa­tion that gets you ac­tive to­gether. There are also fun ways to get mov­ing in­doors. “Dancing is al­ways fun and it warms you up when it’s cold,” Greyling rec­om­mends. “Play your kids’ favourite songs and they’ll be dancing in no time.” Simon McQueen, cre­ator of the or­gan­i­sa­tion Fit Kids, says par­ents should get in­volved too “and at least look like they’re en­joy­ing it! Young kids love hav­ing their par­ents’ at­ten­tion so if you want to in­stil a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­wards ex­er­cise, get stuck in too.” MAKE IT EN­TER­TAIN­ING

Play fol­low-the-leader where your kids have to im­i­tate your move­ments, or have an­i­mal races where you all have to hop like a bunny or can­ter like a horse.

Pillow fights are a great car­dio work­out.

Play pushover par­ents. Plant your feet steadily on the ground and get your kids to try to push you over.

Do the bub­ble-wrap pop. Lay a sheet of bub­ble wrap on the ground and tell the kids to jump on it un­til all the bub­bles are popped.

You can also get them to do these core-strength­en­ing ex­er­cises: The bridge. Have your child lie on their back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tell them to push hard through their heels to raise their bot­tom off the ground, keep­ing their head and shoul­ders on the ground. See if they can hold the po­si­tion for a count of 20 and give them a re­ward if they do.

The Su­per­man. Get them to lie on their tum­mies on the floor and raise their arms and chests off the ground. When they can progress to rais­ing their feet off the ground too, they get a prize.

Climb­ing trees and jun­gle gyms are great bone-strength­en­ing ex­er­cises too, but you can also do these in the liv­ing room with your kids:

Push-ups with knees on the floor – again, give them a num­ber to reach and a re­ward once they’ve reached it. Gym­nas­tics. You don’t have to en­rol your kid in a class – turn the lounge or the gar­den into an ob­sta­cle course. Put a strong plank be­tween two chairs (with an old mat­tress or a few cush­ions un­der­neath) and get them to bal­ance across it.

Make them prac­tise som­er­saults on the sofa then leap into the air once they’re done. Find a strong tree branch and get them to dan­gle from it, then see how high they can raise their legs. BE SNEAKY Con­sider treat­ing your child to a wear­able ac­tiv­ity tracker for their birth­day or Christ­mas ( prices start at around R400) which records how many steps they do a day. This will feed into their tech ob­ses­sion and trick them into mov­ing more! S See page 44 for more tips for a healthy life­style.

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