Most of us as kids were riding our bikes nonstop in the summer. We had two TV channels and no electronics, so there was nothing else to do but to go outside and play. These days, children have so many more opportunities and activities. We also do not feel as safe letting our kids go outside and play without supervision. Our lives are busier and so are our children’s.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day for children. As we know from the media, children are less active than they have ever been. There is an epidemic of obesity due to the ease of obtaining foods, especially processed and unhealthy foods, as well as being more sedentary. Of course, physical activity is important for physical health, but did you know that it is also beneficial for mental health?
Being active releases endorphins, which are the “feel good” hormones in our brain, so we feel happier. Physical activity also results in an increase in self-confidence, promotes independence, and helps manage anxiety and boosts mood. Another positive effect is on thinking skills including working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility.
So, with exciting activities like video games beckoning our children, how do we get them moving more?
- Limit screen-time. Current guidelines suggest no more than 2 hours/day for children 5 and up and 1 hour for younger children.
- Make a rule that screen-time happens only after physical activity and/or outside time.
- Come up with a list of ideas for getting active indoors (since Winter in Canada is LONG). Activities could include: obstacle course, exercise videos, Wii games, adapting outdoor games to the inside, etc.
- Try new activities as a family, such as rock-climbing, bowling, or skiing.
- Encourage your children to incorporate activity into their day by walking when possible to destinations and taking the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator.
- Play at the playground – running, monkey bars, tag, balancing on logs.
Most of all, be a positive role model. All the benefits of physical activity mentioned above for children will also be benefits for you!
For more information and ideas on how to get moving, visit the sites below:
Canadian Paediatric Society, www.cps.ca
Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, www.keltymentalhealth.ca and http://keltymentalhealth.ca/r/kidneticParticipACTION, www.participaction.com
The Gold Standard in Exercise Science and Personal Training, www.csep.ca/guidelines