Tackling Childhood Obesity Part 2 - Exercise
There are some simple steps I took with our kids to get them on the road to being fitter that didn't cost us much in terms of financial investment and you might like to try them on your offspring.
The worst thing possible is to make the decision that your child is fat and things must change immediately. Signing a kid up for an after school sports club when they can't even run around in the garden without getting out of breath will likely lead to humiliation and worse, put them off exercise for life.
It is much better to start off gently, and better still to start off with a plan of attack that doesn’t make it obvious that you’re aiming to get your children to do some exercise.
The first thing to do can often be the hardest because it doesn't necessarily seem tied in to anything related to fitness or weight loss. The recommended amount of sleep for a 7 year old is roughly ten and a half hours. Does your child get that much sleep or are they woefully short? If a child gets a lot less than the recommended level of sleep it can affect their concentration and energy levels. Getting a child who has energy to spare to burn it off is much easier than spooning a child off the sofa and forcing them outside to do something. This proved really tricky with our eight year old as he had gotten in to the habit of sloping off to bed with the iPad and watching Minecraft videos on YouTube until the small hours. Yes, he might have slept in until 8am the next morning but I genuinely couldn't tell you what time he was going to sleep at night.
Getting the kids into a good sleep routine was worth the effort though as it made the rest a lot easier. Aside from fundamentally altering the kid’s bedtime routine, everything else we did was gradual, with a little bit here and there.
How little can a little bit be? Well we got the six year old and the eight year old to clear the table after dinner and do some of the cleaning for a little bit of pocket money. It doesn't sound like much but ten minutes of comedy vacuum cleaning (followed by five minutes of clearing up the mess that ten minutes of vacuum cleaning made) is a heck of a lot more activity than sitting on the sofa with CiTV on. With three kids, we tend to run the cleaner round most days too, so it all adds up.
The next step up involves a little bit of effort on your part as a parent. Whenever you go out somewhere, be it a trip to the supermarket, or a day out, try parking a little bit further away from where you're going than you normally would. For instance, we often go to Cambridge on a day out- a quick trip round the shops, followed by lunch then a museum. Rather than parking in one of city centre car parks, we park on Trumpington Road and walk in to the city centre. It takes about ten or fifteen minutes for us to walk in, saves us a small fortune in parking and gets the kids walking. Walking is the path to getting fitter by stealth.
After you've got your children happy with walking a lot, it really becomes a virtuous circle of improvement but keeping it up does involve a time investment from you as parents. I remember taking our youngest for a walk in the woods one day last year while the older two were at school. We let him walk, and at two and a half years old, and it must have taken us about two hours to walk what it took us five minutes to do on the way back when I put the little man on my shoulders. It is this sort of time investment that readies your children for more formalised sports or activities when they get a little bit older. No kid likes to fail, especially in front of their peers, so as parents it's our responsibility to give them the tools to be fit and healthy and able to take part.
Guest blogger Daddacool - By day a mild mannered accountant. By night...asleep until the kids wake him up. "Britain's premier parent blogger" - Sunday Times.