Building Healthy Habits


There is no doubt that healthy habits start at a young age, from eating a balanced diet to exercising regularly. However, children do not automatically or intuitively have these habits, so it is important that parents to teach their children how to choose healthy foods and to be physically active. The Centers for Disease Control report that one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese, so developing lasting habits that lead to a long, healthy life is more important than ever.

In observance of the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day 2011 (April 17), we wanted to share with you some ideas and strategies for getting your kids moving and teaching that exercise really can be fun. As the weather warms up outside, it is a great time to be enjoying the outdoors as a family. Experts recommend children above the age of 6 need at least an hour a day of physical activity. Most of that hour should be either moderate or vigorous aerobic activity with children participating in muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.

A major obstacle parents have to overcome with their children is the lure of TV, video games, and the Internet. These sedentary activities do not promote good health, so parents need to provide an alternative that children will find fun and appealing. One thing to keep in mind is that parents are a powerful example for children, so taking part in physical activity with your child can be an effective way to draw your children away from the living room and into the backyard.

Get Moving Ideas

  • Plan a game night: in good weather, these games can be outdoors in the backyard, a local park, or in a swimming pool. Classic games like Tag or Simon Says get kids moving. However, an indoor game like Charades can provide a means to activity when it is cold or raining.
  • Get in the game: playing a sport with your child is a great way to teach them a new skill while also being active. Kid-friendly sports include soccer, basketball, baseball, and tennis.
  • Provide active toys: having jump ropes, a basketball or a soccer ball on hand encourages kids to use them. On the weekends, consider putting up a volleyball or badminton net and inviting the neighbors to join in on a tournament.
  • Explore the neighborhood: biking or walking through your neighborhood provides a different sensory experience than just driving through in the car. Take the time to point out trees and flowers to your kids. You can also make this a treasure hunt for smaller children, collecting leaves, rocks, and bird feathers along the way.

Exercising with your children does not have to time-consuming or expensive, but it should be fun. Taking the time to discover what works for your family and learning which activities your kids prefer will deepen your bond as a family as you learn to laugh and play together.

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