Britain is in the grips of an obesity crisis, with the NHS reporting that almost 10% of reception-aged children are obese, an increase of 9.1% from 2015 to 2016, parents need to act more than ever to keep their children healthy.
When your child is younger you have control over what they eat and how they spend their time, but with puberty and increased independence, it becomes paramount that they do not forget the value of exercise and healthy eating.
Cathy Ranson, Editor of ChannelMum said: “While some tweens and teens love sport and want to stay active, for others it can be more of a challenge. They key is finding an activity they love and don’t see as exercise.”
The Huffington Post UK spoke to two experts about ten things parents can do to keep their child active as they enter adolescence.
1. Make it fun.
Ranson says: “Keeping active doesn’t have to feel like sport. Ice-skating, bowling, roller-discos all are all fun things to do but also brilliant exercise too.”
2. Integrate it into your weekend plans.
“Plan family weekend activities that are active. Trade cinema outings for ones that burn calories - treasure hunts, geocaching and trails in your local area or family swimming sessions where they put the inflatables in the pool,” advises Ranson.
3. Try different things.
“Take up free taster sessions of different sports. Lots of sports clubs will allow you to try it once before signing up. Encourage your child to try lots of different activities until they find the one they love,” says Ranson.
4. Ask about their friends.
Ranson recommends: “Find out what active clubs and classes your child’s friends do and see if they’d like to go along with them. Having a buddy to go with will make it fun plus you can share the pick up/drop off with the other parents!”
5. Don’t become paranoid.
Amanda Gummer, founder of Fundamentally Children, says: “You can’t control the choices your child makes away from home; and don’t panic if the sometimes choose a burger over a salad at lunch. If you know that happens it becomes more important that, when they get home, you help balance it out.”
6. Get out in the garden.
Ranson says: “Got a trampoline in the garden? If not consider investing in one as these are great for keeping active and you can pick them up for a good price second hand. Limit screen time and send them outdoors for a bounce every day!”
7. Change the school-run.
“If you drive to school - stop. Encourage independence and exercise by leaving the car at home or only driving part of the way. Kids love being trusted to walk with a friend and it’s a good way of getting some extra steps in daily,” says Ranson.
8. Look at gym options.
“Many gyms and public pools let kids in on ‘pay as you go’ passes. It’s a great way to get youngsters used to exercise and they’ll see older teens training and want to get into the habit,” says Ranson.
9. Recommend a team.
Ranson tells parents: “Try a sport like hockey or football where your teen feels ‘part of a team’. This way they’re much less likely to stay in bed as they won’t want to let their team down. There are weekend leagues right across the UK and ability isn’t important - it’s more about turning up, getting stuck in and having fun.”
10. Keep food healthy at home.
Gummer says: “Talk to them about why a balanced diet is good and discuss issues in the news such as the sugar levy, activity levels, screen time so they can have their opinion heard in a grown up discussion and not feel preached at.”