Don’t Be Couch Potatoes!

Kids copy the behaviors of the adults they are around as a way to learn how things work in the world. Sometimes they mimic undesirable behaviors, such as repeating bad words. Other times they repeat positive actions, such as covering their mouths when they sneeze. Kids also watch what adults do in their downtime and follow along. This means that when adults flop on the couch after a long day of work, kids often join them, leading to sedentary behavior that isn’t healthy — for the adults or the kids.

Why Exercise?

Kids need to be taught why they should exercise, including what counts as good exercise. Children who carry extra weight early in life have an increased risk of developing health problems now or later in life. In the short term, children can have breathing problems from exertion, joint pain, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Children who are overweight have a higher risk of carrying excess weight into adulthood, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD). The NIDDKD is an independent organization that offers health information that you may find helpful.

The Game Plan

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines specify that children should get an average of an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. The CDC is an independent organization that offers health information that you may find helpful. Children from the ages of 6 through 17 should do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, including aerobic activity three days a week, bone-strengthening activity three days a week, and muscle-strengthening activity three days a week as part of their daily activities. Some examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:

  • Walking briskly
  • Playing tag
  • Jumping rope
  • Playing soccer
  • Swimming
  • Dancing

Kids who are not used to being active don’t have to jump straight into an hour of movement — several short bursts of 5 to 10 minutes of activity throughout the day are just as good. From there, they can gradually build up to 60 minutes of activity.

Get Up Together

Adults need 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week, so get the whole family involved in being healthy! The same physical activities that kids enjoy are just as enjoyable to adults, but can also include necessary chores like heavy yard work — think digging, raking or lifting bags of soil. Fun activities are more likely to get children interested in being part of the action, so take a walk or bike ride together as a family, enjoy a game of tennis, or jump rope outside together.

To get children moving, the NIDDK recommends limiting children’s screen time to less than two hours per day outside of school work. Screen time includes time spent in front of the television, mobile devices and cell phones. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t recommend television time for children under the age of two. The AAP is an independent organization that offers health information that you may find helpful.

Only 1 in 3 kids are physically active every day and 80 percent of adults do not meet the guidelines for aerobic or muscle-strengthening activities. So don’t be couch potatoes. Get the whole family up and moving together in a variety of fun ways that everyone can enjoy!