How to help your kids (and yourself) be more active

In recent years, children and their families have become more inactive. Watching TV, playing video games, using computers and talking on the phone have gained popularity and steadily replaced more active pastimes such as going for walks, riding bikes, gardening, playing catch, kicking a ball or simply playing outside.

Why is this a problem? Here are a few reasons:

  • Inactivity uses up your free time! Time spent being inactive reduces the time available for physical activity.
  • Inactivity uses less energy and burns fewer calories.
  • Inactivity increases the likelihood of eating. People are more likely to eat in front of the TV or computer than when they are walking or riding their bikes. In addition, TV ads often promote unhealthy foods, stimulate your appetite and cause you to eat more.
  • Inactivity replaces time spent interacting with family and friends.
  • Inactivity also can take time away from homework.
  • Inactivity decreases overall energy levels, causing you to feel tired! 

What causes us to be inactive?

  • The home environment often encourages inactivity in ways such as the following:
  • TVs throughout the house, especially bedrooms
  • Video games
  • Computers
  • Little or no exercise equipment

In addition, inactive parents teach their children to be sedentary. Children need parents to model an active lifestyle to help them understand how to incorporate physical activity into their lives. Get moving together!

Limited access to places for activity also contributes to inactivity. It’s not uncommon for homes to be where there are …

  • No parks or playgrounds nearby
  • Poorly lighted streets
  • No sidewalks

What can parents do to promote activity?

Here are some ideas:

Laure Utecht, MD, is medical director of New Impact, a pediatric healthy lifestyles program offered by Prisma Health Children’s Hospital. To learn more about New Impact, click here.

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