Stay­ing healthy should be child’s play

With re­search telling us only one in 30 chil­dren are as ac­tive as they should be, HAN­NAH BRITT asks the ex­perts how to en­cour­age fam­i­lies to move more

Llanelli Star - - Family Health -

BE­ING ac­tive as a kid should be child’s play – but a study from Ex­eter and Ply­mouth uni­ver­si­ties tracked 807 pri­mary school chil­dren’s ac­tiv­ity for a week and the re­sults made for wor­ry­ing read­ing.

Only one in 30 chil­dren did the rec­om­mended hour of ex­er­cise each day.

Terry Austin, phys­i­ol­o­gist and head of school well­be­ing at Nuffield Health, says the re­search high­lights a con­cern­ing trend. “Cur­rent rec­om­men­da­tions are for chil­dren to do at least 60 min­utes of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity every day. This pro­motes bet­ter gen­eral health, stronger bones and mus­cles and higher lev­els of self-es­teem,” he says.

“This should in­clude mod­er­ate ac­tiv­ity, such as cy­cling and play­ground games, and more vig­or­ous ex­er­cise in­clud­ing run­ning and team sports.

Here’s how to get the kids mov­ing:

COM­PUTER SAYS YES

SCREEN time is one of the key sources of rows be­tween par­ents and chil­dren but there is a way to stop gam­ing-mad kids from sit­ting down to play.

“Ex­ergam­ing” – com­puter gam­ing that in­volves phys­i­cal move­ment – is a way to en­cour­age kids to get ac­tive. The ma­jor­ity of “ex­ergam­ing” games achieve ac­tiv­ity lev­els of mod­er­ate in­ten­sity, which meets guide­lines for health and fit­ness,” says Mark Grif­fiths, a psy­chol­o­gist and gam­ing ex­pert.

“And any­one who has played Nin­tendo Wii Fit or taken part in danc­ing com­puter games knows that en­ergy is def­i­nitely ex­pended.”

LIV­ING ROOM WORK­OUT

HOME work­outs are an easy way for adults to get fit. Now kids can join in with fun fit­ness ses­sions spe­cially tai­lored to dif­fer­ent age groups.

Les Mills’ Born To Move on-de­mand on­line ser­vice fea­tures ex­er­cise rou­tines for tod­dlers through to teenagers. It has dance, yoga, mar­tial arts and ath­letic moves all set to an up­beat sound­track.

Each class teaches age-ap­pro­pri­ate mo­tor skills fo­cus­ing on agility, bal­ance, co­or­di­na­tion, en­durance, flex­i­bil­ity and speed. Sam­ple work­outs are free on lesmills.com or pay £9.99 a month to ac­cess them all.

TOURIST IN YOUR OWN TOWN

EX­PLOR­ING your lo­cal area is a great way to get the whole fam­ily ac­tive, es­pe­cially when it’s done on foot. Hoop is a free app that lists ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren up to 11 years old.

“If you want to get your kids mov­ing, look for events that are listed as ac­tiv­i­ties that pro­mote a healthy life­style or de­velop co­or­di­na­tion and bal­ance,” says co-founder Max Jen­nings. “List­ings can be fil­tered by type of ac­tiv­ity and price so you can check out all the free things go­ing on.”

For more in­for­ma­tion: hoop.co.uk.

MAKE IT INTO A GAME

YOU can make al­most any­thing seem fun if you turn it into a game.

“Kids will clean the house if you turn it into a com­pe­ti­tion,” says Char­lie Laun­der, founder of Bumps & Burpees and fit­ness ex­pert at The Baby Show.

She rec­om­mends start­ing a race to see who can be the first child to put all their toys away.

“Make it seem like a trea­sure hunt around the house and of­fer a prize to the first per­son who finds and ti­dies up their toys,” she says.

“Or why not give them a duster and see who can be first to sweep a shelf?”

FOL­LOW YOUR FRIENDS

IF CHIL­DREN see their friends play­ing, they’re much more likely to join in. To en­cour­age this, Char­lie sug­gests that you or­gan­ise an out­ing as a group.

“Team up with some mum friends and take the kids to the park with a foot­ball,” she says. “Of­ten chil­dren just need to be en­cour­aged to get out of their com­fort zone.

“See­ing other kids run­ning around and hav­ing fun will give them the nudge they need to do the same.”

HAVE AN AD­VEN­TURE

AN ad­ven­ture play­ground is the ideal place for chil­dren to get ac­tive phys­i­cally and men­tally.

“These are fan­tas­tic places to ex­plore,” says Melissa

Hood, founder of The Par­ent

Prac­tice. “Kids can dig in the dirt and build dams or they can sail a pi­rate ship over the waves.” Play­grounds al­low chil­dren to take risks and use their imag­i­na­tion to play in a safe en­vi­ron­ment that is not di­rected by adults. “Tak­ing risks is great for build­ing in­de­pen­dence and de­vel­op­ing prob­lem­solv­ing skills. Kids can chal­lenge them­selves and grow in con­fi­dence,” says Melissa.

The phys­i­cal ben­e­fits in­clude mus­cle-build­ing, co­or­di­na­tion and de­vel­op­ing vis­ual-spa­tial aware­ness.

WALK THE SCHOOL RUN

LEAVE your car at home and walk all or part of the way to school one morn­ing.

“The more you can do to make things fun while walk­ing, the bet­ter,” says Melissa. “Have var­i­ous stop­ping points along the way, for ex­am­ple, trees, lamp posts or benches. Let the kids race on ahead to the next stop­ping point.

“Tell them to wait there un­til you catch up, then give them a ‘magic tap’ on the head that al­lows them to go on.”

Walk­ing to school is a great op­por­tu­nity to chat too, which you may have be­come a bit un­fa­mil­iar with if your kids are usu­ally star­ing at a screen. “Talk about what you see on the way – trees, squir­rels, even rain,”

says Melissa.

SET A GOOD EX­AM­PLE

“KIDS learn by ex­am­ple, so make sure you’re set­ting a good one,” says psy­chol­o­gist Emma Kenny.

If par­ents play phys­i­cal games, sport or just en­joy walk­ing about in na­ture, then their chil­dren will too.

“Bike rid­ing is a great fam­ily fit­ness ac­tiv­ity that doesn’t feel like ex­er­cise. Pack a pic­nic and go out for a cou­ple of hours at the week­end,” sug­gests Emma.

“Sign up for char­ity walks or fun runs. Or if you’re at home, crank up the mu­sic, get the fam­ily to­gether and dance. This makes move­ment fun.”

GET BACK TO BA­SICS

WHEN it comes to games, some of the oldies are def­i­nitely still the best.

“Tug of war, egg and spoon races, sack races – these tra­di­tional games are bril­liant for boost­ing ac­tiv­ity,” says Nicola Ad­di­son, per­sonal trainer at Healthspan.

Nicola rec­om­mends draw­ing a hop­scotch grid on the pave­ment or tak­ing a skip­ping rope to the park.

If it’s rain­ing, hide and seek against the clock is a fun way to get mov­ing around the house.

TRY SOME AN­I­MAL MAGIC

GET­TING chil­dren to be re­spon­si­ble for pets is a great way to boost ac­tiv­ity without them re­al­is­ing.

“If you have a fam­ily dog, in­cor­po­rate a daily walk into your child’s rou­tine,” says David Wiener, train­ing spe­cial­ist at Freelet­ics (freelet­ics.com).

You could also give a lit­tle ex­tra pocket money for walk­ing the dog.

This will re­ward your child for be­ing ac­tive and in­stil a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“You don’t have to have a dog to get your kids ac­tive,” says David.

“En­cour­ag­ing them to play or help look af­ter any pet, be it a cat, a ham­ster or even a fish, can help them be ac­tive.”

Just get­ting the kids out­doors might be all it takes to keep them fit and healthy

Turn­ing house­work into fun is an­other sim­ple way to get your brood work­ing those mus­cles – but per­haps not this young!

If you have a pet in­cor­po­rate a dog walk into your child’s rou­tine

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