Do you find it tough getting your kids off the couch and away from their electronic devices? If so, you are not alone. The 2014 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth reported that “61% of Canadian parents agree their kids spend too much time in front of the TV or computer” (2014, p. 42). In their report card, the United States also indicated a high rate of sedentary behavior related to time spent watching TV or using computers. Overall about half of U.S. children and youth meet the guidelines of engaging in 2 hours or less of screen time per day.
In 2014, fifteen countries participated in a global assessment to compare physical activity levels of children and youth in each country. Researchers used a number of measures, surveys, and tools to complete the assessment against common criteria. They compared activity levels based on the following areas:
- Overall physical activity
- Sedentary behaviors
- Active transportation
- Organized sport participation
- Active play
- Health-related fitness
- Family & peers
- Community & the built environment
- Government strategies and investments
The report cards showed that there was no consistent country leader overall and that the grades for indicators of physical activity behavior were low in most of the countries.
The grades also indicated that some countries led in some aspects, and fell behind in others, which offer a great tool for learning about how to integrate successful strategies employed in other countries. Read more about this very interesting assessment by going to Canada’s and the US’s reports. Both reports give a wealth of information on how to encourage more physical activity.
Kids Just Wanna Have Fun
As parents, we have busy lives and we try to schedule physical activities for our kids through extracurricular sports. We also expect schools to take care of some of the physical activity requirements. However, deep down kids are just like adults. We both need to be motivated to get up and get going. As adults we tell our kids to get away from their computers or iPods and get out to play, but do you remember when you were a kid? The first thing I did when I got home from school was turn on the TV and watch my favorite sitcoms like “The Brady Bunch”. That was fun to me. At that age I didn’t choose physical activity and needed to be doing something that was fun to engage in it. For instance, I could be talked into walking to the mall or skipping rope with friends or rollerblading to a friend’s house. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the importance of physical activity and engaged in it because of the health benefits.
Free play is an important part of life and teaching your kids how to enjoy that starts with doing fun things with your kids. It’s amazing how quickly the time passes when you are around people you enjoy, doing things you love to do.
Making Running Fun
The last couple of weeks, I’ve been helping out at my son’s school with the endurance running group. Kids in his school signed up for this activity as part of their physical education program. The first day I showed up, I expected them to be eager beavers, excited about running laps, measuring their distances and aiming for faster finish times. After all, they had chosen this activity.
Mr. Holland, the teacher in charge of the group, gave me the heads up just before I was to give them their first pep talk about how great running is for your health. He said to me, “We have a ragtag bunch of runners.” I understood what he meant when we got started. Some kids just took off and started doing laps, while others dragged themselves around the field complaining about how hard this was. As I asked kids why they chose running as their activity, most said that they didn’t like any of the other activities offered! I thought to myself, “Oh, boy, now what do I do?” That day, when we started horsing around to get them going, like running sideways and backwards, using running terms like “fartleks”, kids started laughing and forgetting about how hard running was. So, the solution for this group is FUN.
Our focus each week now is to make the activity fun regardless of how much running we get in. One day the kids do longer runs in the community, and the other day we run a little and do activities related to fitness like push ups, lunges, squats, jumping jacks and whatever else can get them better prepared for running. I think the kids are enjoying our time together. Before we started our last session, the kids were asking me, “What are we doing today?” and before we ended our last session they wanted to know what was in store for next week’s session. We all agreed that an obstacle course would be great fun!
By sharing our love of sport, activity and just being outdoors, we can inspire kids to get moving and stay active.