British children are some of the least active in the world, according to a new study, presented to the International Congress On Physical Activity and Public Health.
Only 15% of girls and 22% of boys aged 11-15 in the UK, reach the government recommendation of at least an hour of moderate intensity physical activity per day, the study found.
England and Wales were both scored D minus in the report, while Scotland was awarded a grade F.
As a result it is becoming ever clearer that it is important for parents to encourage their kids to be more active. So here are five ways to get your child to be more physically active.
1. Take every opportunity.
In our busy lives, we often overlook potential opportunities for our children to exercise throughout the day, and instead focus on a sports lesson or one burst of exercise.
In fact walking is just as beneficial, and easier to sustain as part of a longterm lifestyle.
If you live within walking distance of your child’s school then try to walk instead of driving as much as possible. Or encourage them to get off the bus a stop earlier on the way home and walk the rest of the way.
If you have a dog, bring your child out for the dog walk, rather than letting them sit on the sofa while you do all the hard work.
2. Don’t let rain stop play.
Living in the UK does mean that it is often hard to motivate ourselves and our children to go outside in poor weather, but if we refuse to exercise in any weather apart from sunshine, that leaves us with a very small window of time.
Samantha Young from Kids Run Free, told The Huffington Post UK: “It is easy to blame your lack of ability to go outside on the British weather, but there are no bad weather days just inappropriate clothing.”
Get your child wrapped up or in waterproofs, and they have no excuse to stay home.
“This is even more important in the winter months as your children need more daylight for their developing bodies,” adds Young.
3. Lead by example.
If we aren’t willing to do our part and exercise, then it is hard to justify asking your children to go and do it.
“Children do as you do,” explained Young. “If you sit and watch TV whilst telling your children to get off their bottoms and move, you are giving a mixed message.”
If you are making your children play sports and do extra curricular activities outside school, then really you should also be willing to partake yourself. If you’re struggling to feel inspired, why not spend some time at weekend to take a family walk or go to the leisure centre.
4. Make it fun.
One of the problems with adults and exercise is that it is viewed as a chore (we’re all familiar with the pre-gym dread) but exercise should be fun. You want your child to subscribe to a lifetime of healthy activity rather than only when they are forced into it by parents or PE teachers.
The NHS recommends parents find time every weekend to do something active with their children. You can play frisbee or football in the park, go trampolining, try indoor rock climbing, roller skating, rollerblading or skateboarding. In winter, go ice skating.
For a longer term goal, try a local charity walk that everyone in your family can join in with, whatever age they are.
5. Tell them why they’re doing it.
This doesn’t mean making your child paranoid about their weight or appearance (especially as they are beginning their teenage years), but it is important to explain that exercise is key to maintaining a healthy body and preventing problems later in life.
It will also make them feel better, grow their confidence and give them life skills.
“Educate your children about how important it is to move and feel their hearts beating,” said Young.
“Let them know that it is ok to be hot and sweaty, that it is a good thing to be out of breath.
“Also let them know that it is ok to not be very good at sports, but to still take part – that in this participation they are empowering themselves to be fitter and healthier for life.”