Getting kids active in and beyond sports

It may not necessarily feel like it, but spring is definitely upon us. With that comes warmer weather, longer days, and more opportunities to be outside. Unfortunately, advances in technology have made it far too easy and appealing for children and adolescents to remain sedentary and inactive. Recent research has shown that these technological advances have contributed significantly to childhood obesity.

One thing parents do to try to and encourage their children to be active is to enroll them in an organized sports team. Whether it be soccer, softball, or lacrosse, organized sports can be quite beneficial to a young child for many reasons: increased physical activity, social interaction, improved self-esteem and self-confidence, and promoting healthy competition.

However, often times especially at younger age levels, practices and games for these teams may only last a few hours per week. In addition, due to increased costs and necessary parental involvement, organized sports may not be a viable option for certain families.

With spring right around the corner and warmer weather a few weeks away, here are some tips to get your children more active in a way that’s fun, convenient, and best of all FREE!!!

Encourage free, unstructured play

If you have a backyard or access to a public park, setting aside time each day for simple play and “being a kid” is a fun and exciting way to keep your kids active. It can be a reward for finishing homework or completing chores or simply “just because”.  Letting your child play and have fun alone, with siblings, or with friends as little as 30 minutes a day can be beneficial. The key is to simply allow them to do whatever comes to mind, within reason of course. Kids will be kids and will find something to do which often involves running, jumping, or climbing.

For older kids and teenagers, this could be a bit trickier. Having them practice their favorite sport on their own or with friends can be a fun physical activity.  Encouraging them to walk or ride their bike to their friends’ houses or to/from school, rather than being driven, is also a great way to stimulate regular physical activity. Some older kids may enjoy a membership at the local YMCA or physical fitness center to play pick up sports or participate in other forms of aerobic exercise.

Forget the elevators

Encouraging your children to take the stairs instead of elevators is a convenient and accessible way to get physical exercise. Taking the stairs burns calories and can be a great source of exercise, specifically for children that live in high rise buildings or have many floors at their school.  Also, for those children that live in one-level homes or attend one-level schools, using the stairs in public places such as stores, supermarkets, the mall, or the library is a great source of exercise also.

Family Outings

Scheduling regular family exercise time can be good fun and also provides physical activity for the whole family. A jog around the block, a family pick-up game of basketball or football, or a bike ride around town or through the woods are all things that are fun, promote family unity, and provide valuable exercise.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.