Written by: Morgan England, MS
Parkview Health Youth Well-being Coach
Have you ever caught yourself doing or saying something that your parents always said or did? The first few times can be quite shocking. As a parent, you are your child’s greatest influence. Your child is always watching the things you do or don’t do, listening to the words you say, or the tone you use. This also includes the foods you choose to eat, the beverages you choose to drink, and the way in which you choose to move your body and exercise. The latest physical activity guidelines recommend that children engage in at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity each day, and adults are recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week.1 Studies have shown that a parent’s participation in, modeling of, and encouragement can influence a child’s participation in physical activity.2 Additionally, research found that children whose parents encouraged being physically active and enjoyed it themselves were 6.3 times more likely to be active.3
As a parent, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine is incredibly beneficial for all parts of your life. You will notice that your mood, quality of sleep, mental health, stress level, energy level, and physical health will improve. But more importantly, those little eyes that are always watching you will be learning how to prioritize taking care of themselves and having fun through movement. Physical activity is a great way to connect, have fun as a family, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Here are a few tips for increasing physical activity and play in your home:
1. Make it fun! Children engage in physical activity and exercise through play. Choose things you will all enjoy – games, dance parties, tag, bike rides, listening games, Simon Says, your current favorite sport, etc. Being active should be fun and enjoyable for all involved.
2. Consider incorporating movement into your family’s daily routine with things like morning stretches, evening walks, mid-day recess, or before dinner dance parties.
3. Set specific times for activity and take turns letting each family member choose what activities you do.
4. Make sure you are just as engaged, if not more so than the kids in the activity. They feed off your energy and involvement.
5. Utilize online resources. There are plenty of websites and videos full of creative ideas to get you and the kids moving.
6. Include the kids, when it is safe, in your own workouts. Just like kids want to help with the cleaning and cooking, including kids in your workouts is a great way to teach them about safety during exercise and expose them to different forms of exercise. Be very careful when it comes to children utilizing fitness equipment and weights as they can easily become hurt and be sure to set boundaries and rules around the use of exercise equipment in your home.
1. US Department of Health and Human Services, Olson RD, Piercy KL, et al. 2nd ed.; 2018:1-117.
2. Määttä S, Ray C, Roos E. Associations of parental influence and 10–11-year-old children’s physical activity: Are they mediated by children’s perceived competence and attraction to physical activity? Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2013;42(1):45-51. doi:10.1177/1403494813504506
3. Zecevic CA, Tremblay L, Lovsin T, Michel L. Parental influence on young children's physical activity. International Journal of Pediatrics. 2010;2010:1-9. doi:10.1155/2010/468526
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