Reduce childhood obesity by being an active family
We can’t keep ignoring the facts, childhood obesity is a growing epidemic.
Recent Government research found one in three children in the final year of primary school in England is overweight or obese. A YouGov poll also revealed that 91% of children are failing to reach the recommended Government guideline of dedicating just 60 minutes a day on moderate to vigorous physical activity.
We need to get to the bottom of this issue, but obesity and inactivity don’t just happen overnight and it is an issue that needs to be handled with care. Children are at a very impressionable age and a negative experience could influence their attitude towards diet and exercise forever. This means treating each child with respect and sensitivity, and examining the reason why they are engaging with this behaviour. Telling parents to give their children less food and increase their exercise more does not address the root of the issue, we need to explore what drives them to overeat and avoid activity, and most importantly, how we can change their behaviour so that they adopt a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Gender biased could also explain a reduction in activity for girls. In the UK, by the age of eight, fewer girls are already taking part in sport than boys, and by 14 to 15 years old, boys are twice as active as girls. Women In Sport, which carried out the study with the Institute of Youth Sport Families, found lack of role models, social norms about femininity, lack of confidence and negative experiences in school PE lessons all played a part. It also found that the biggest influence of all on a child’s activity levels is their own family. If you come from an active family who regularly engage in sport and physical activity, you are more likely to carry this on by being active yourself into adulthood.
Become an active family
Exercising as a family is a simple and effective way to promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Children naturally look up to their parents, therefore by engaging in activity as a family you can set a great example for the kids and have fun doing so.
Dancing is a fantastic way to include movement into everyday life. Put some music on and dance around the room with your child(ren) for five minutes whenever you have the chance. Children of all ages can join in and discover the joys of movement.
Go for walks
Go for a walk straight after eating dinner together as a family. Not only will it help improve your digestion, it will encourage you to all to spend some time away from screens and wind down for the evening. You could also do this on a weekend and go for a longer walk.
It can be challenging fitting exercise into your busy schedule, especially when you are curating three or four people’s schedules. Set the same time aside every week for exercises and make sure you are all doing it at the same time. For example, the parents could do weights at home while the kids try some bodyweight moves, or you could all go for a run together.
Make activity fun
Reward your children with enjoyable activities. Instead of taking them to the cinema for a treat, take them trampolining or to an adventure play park. They will soon start to associate fun feelings with activity and want to do it more.
Your attitude towards activity will have a huge impact on how your child feels about it. If they always hear you using negative terms about activity, “I can’t be bothered to go for a run”, “The gym was so difficult today” etc, then they will form negative associations around it and become reluctant to engage in it. On the other hand, speaking positively about activity, “I feel amazing after that run!”, “I love lifting weights” etc will have the opposite effect, and children will want to join in with activity and have as much fun as their parents.
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