Sedentary Behavior in Kids Today Increases Risk of Obesity
Many children today sit too much and don’t move enough. They’re lured by less-than-healthy foods and technology overpowers their lives. As parents, you’re probably very aware of these problems and you’re eager to find solutions.
Whether you’re attempting to start the New Year healthily or getting your kids situated with back-to-school routines, life can feel hectic and complicated as countless tasks permeate the day while health and fitness take the back burner. Manufacturers know this well. They’ve responded with a ubiquitous array of sugary, processed snacks and convenience foods, many of which come promoted with health promises to disguise their junk ingredients.
To compound the problem, kids oftentimes don’t get sufficient exercise. Whereas former generations spent their time outside playing or otherwise being active, in their spare time today many children play video games, browse social media, or otherwise remain sedentary (oftentimes while mindlessly munching junk foods). Beyond being sedentary, physical inactivity increases the risk of obesity and disease such as Type 2 Diabetes. Childhood obesity can lead to adulthood obesity, other chronic diseases, and high medical costs.
Researchers find that obesity rates have increased dramatically over the past few decades. As parents, you have the most potential to change those dismal statistics. Rather than lecture or mandate that your kids eat healthier and stay more active, be the example you want your kids to be. Encouraging your kids to be more active and health-conscious needn’t feel complicated and can even be fun. Family activities provide an excellent way to get everyone involved and spend quality time together.
Seven Family Fun Activities for Health and Bonding
These seven ideas provide a great starting point to create healthier, happier kids while reinforcing familial bonds. Schedule these activities and ensure nothing interferes with them.
- Make a meal together. Try making the kitchen, rather than the living room, your go-to meetup for the family. “We are raising a generation of Americans who don’t know their way around the kitchen, where 50 percent of meals are eaten outside the home, and ones eaten at home are usually reheated, factory-made science projects that resemble food but aren’t. And as you now know, this convenience is killing us,” says Mark Hyman, MD, in The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. Even one meal a week can create a dramatic effect on your family’s health while reinforcing bonds and having fun. Put on some upbeat music, keep the conversation lively, and get everyone involved. Even your littlest ones can set the table or snap vegetables while older kids can chop, carve, and even cook. Rotate the menu so a different person gets to pick every week. Think of the increased family time while also establishing lifelong habits as a bonus. And it goes without saying: Make the dinner table a technology-free zone.
- Visit a farmers market or even a farm. Eating local and organic have become cool and what better way to learn the roots of your food than a farmers market. Make a Saturday morning out of it. Start with a healthy breakfast before you head out so you aren’t tempted by baked goods. You’ll likely meet some nice folks who are happy to educate your kids about where their food comes from while supporting local farmers and perhaps even inspire your own children one day to grow their own vegetables. If you have a nearby one available, farms also make a great way for kids to interact with nature and animals while showing them where their food comes from.
- Have a healthy splurge party. Let’s face it: Sometimes your kids want more than apple slices with almond butter as a sweet treat. Maybe your son’s birthday party or daughter’s graduation demands something sweet. That doesn’t mean you need to provide grocery store cookies and cakes full of sugar, food allergens, and other junk ingredients. Instead, incorporate healthy desserts like our avocado chocolate pudding and coconut almond cookies. You’ll find plenty of other delicious, flavorful dessert recipes to make together here. Speaking of celebrating: These healthy sweet splurges provide an excellent opportunity to celebrate life’s little victories throughout your children’s lives while slipping in more family time by making it together. Win-win!
- Go on a hike or a similar vigorous activity. If you hear groans when you tell your kids to step away from the video games and do something active, reinvent play to incorporate fun, challenging exercise. Hiking makes a great day or weekend activity that practically forces you to step away from technology. If you don’t have a favorite hiking spot in the area, traverse a nearby destination and make an adventure out of it. For those in warmer climates, paddle boats, canoeing, and snorkeling are great water-based alternatives while those in colder ones might consider skiing or ice skating. Make physical activity fun and you’ll build enthusiasm within your kids while enjoying technology-free family time.
- Find a new activity the whole family can engage in. Family time needn’t be boring or forced when you find something everyone enjoys. Engaging in touch football, soccer, or frisbee makes a great Sunday afternoon energy booster that will work up everyone’s appetite for dinner. If intellectual stimulation is more your thing, have a family trivia-game, board game, or card night. With games like Uno, you can engage even the littlest ones. Gratitude is a nutrient that invigorates and inspires everyone, and volunteering provides a great way to install the giving-back virtue to your kids. You might find a nearby charity that your entire family can commit to once a week.
- Schedule a technology-free hour or two. Technology isn’t entirely bad, but using it wisely becomes crucial for healthy kids and strong familial bonds. Tablets, iPhones, video games, and laptops can usurp everyone’s time; even most adults can attest how they mindlessly scrolled through Facebook for an hour at some point. Don’t waste that time; put all electronics away for an hour or two and do something together instead. You’ve got endless options that are fun, entertaining, and get everyone involved. Read a play aloud, have a poetry reading, play charades, or have a “recital” where your kids perform the newest song they learned in piano lessons. Whatever you do will feel more fulfilling than being sedentary and you’ll reinforce familial bonds as well.
- Create a contest. Healthy competition can feel fun for everyone while encouraging people to improve themselves. You’ve got numerous opportunities here. Have your kids each create their own favorite healthy food and vote whose ranked highest. Track your physical activity: The winner who fit in the most steps during their week gets to skip out on chores. Being healthy and bonding together is its own reward, but sometimes creating some friendly competition provides additional incentives to be our healthiest, best selves.
Family gatherings don’t need to feel forced or overly structured when you incorporate fun, invigorating activities that simultaneously support your physical, mental, and emotional health. Use these seven ideas as launchpads to create your own family traditions. While they might feel difficult to implement in the beginning, remember you are installing deep, lasting values for your kids to be health-focused and physically active throughout their lives. As an added bonus, you’ll create some fantastic memories.