We’ve all seen the alarming rates of obesity for children.  Parents, teachers and health professionals are all aware and highly motivated, so what’s the problem?  Age doesn’t seem to discriminate with fitness as kids are faced with the same barriers to balance as adults are – time and motivation!

This doesn’t mean it’s time to sign up your child at the local gym or closest boot camp program.  The most important thing is to find activities your child actually enjoys.  This can be a challenge in and of itself, but here are a few tips to make it easier:

Find activities that fit personality

Try a variety of things but first want to consider your child’s personality.  If shy and reserved, you may want to opt for more individual activities like track and field, skiing or swimming -- all individual activities but they’ll still benefit from the group lessons.  A more gregarious child may be more motivated by team sports and activities and yet they will also be benefiting from developing individual skills.

Try new things -- you may be surprised!

Try a variety of sports that do include individual and group focus.  Try activities in different seasons as you may find an activity your child wants to continue all year round.  Finally, try thing outside of the box and sports you did as a kid.  There’s more variety available now and we do tend to stick with things that are familiar and our own favourites. 

Make it fun!

Sports and activities have become more sophisticated over time – better equipment, facilities and coaching.  This is great but it can also often make sports very competitive at very early ages.  Make sure your child is truly enjoying the activity.  Yes, sometimes they do need a push, but make sure you’re distinguishing between teaching your child commitment versus fulfilling any of your sports dreams!

So how much is enough?

Just like ParticipACTION tells us, kids need 60 minutes of a day every day.  Remember, this means activity which can be a combination of structured and unstructured programs.  Don’t let yourself get over-stressed with scheduling noting “if it’s Tuesday it must be soccer!”  Organized activities are great, but think about the fabulous family time you could have being active together on evenings and weekends. 

In fitness, we use the “FITT” principle which applies for all ages.

Frequency -- we covered that; 60 minutes minimum.  It is sad that one hour of activity has become challenging.  If it is, however, start with 15 and gradually build up that time.

Intensity-- using the “talk test” is a great way to monitor intensity for kids.  Unless they’re in a highly competitive sport, your child should be able to complete short sentences while they’re working out.  Not that you’d be chatting the whole time, but you can check periodically by asking questions about how they feel or perhaps about something about the activity or the environment.

Time --this refers to the duration of the activity and it will vary based on the age and fitness level of your child.  If being active is new, start with 5-10 minutes and gradually increase both time and intensity.  Your child’s attention span will also factor in.  Remember, activity doesn’t have to happen all at once.  Break activity up into smaller blocks of time to accommodate for attention, breaks and fun!

Type --–this, we covered above.  We always encourage people to include all the components in their weekly fitness routines – cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and balance.  When it comes to kids, the priority really is finding fun activities your child can enjoy now and for life.

Activity Ideas for Kids

Activities that are an easy “fit”:

  • Family fun -- biking, hiking, swimming
  • Backyard/basement activities -- play catch, tag, badminton, scavenger hunts
  • Play in the park -- get active WITH your kids
  • Fun & Fit Circuits -- choose 3-5 activities and set them up in a circuit with time or numbers
  • Fit Deck Cards -- you can purchase these at mfgonline.com (under online store) or make your own set!

Tools to make fitness fun:

  • Skipping ropes
  • Pool noodles
  • Hula hoops
  • Balls
  • Frisbees
  • Baskets

Remember, leading by example is one of the most effective ways to ensure your child is and stays healthy and fit.  By doing activities with your kids, you are truly multi-tasking -- being a positive role model, fitting in more exercise yourself and paving the way for a healthy future for your entire family.

  • If you have specific questions or ideas for fitness segments, visit Libby at www.libbynorris.com