By Frances Zappalla, DO
After reading a recent study released in Pediatrics that looks at mounting research showing that a child's media use may be linked to their body weight, we decided to call in a top doc to get some tips on how to combat the growing problem. Here, Dr. Zapalla shares her top 10 ways to entice a screen-loving kid to get moving:
- Do you have parks, playgrounds or trails nearby?
Take children to places where they can run, jump, and climb. Don’t discount your child’s imagination…kids are great at inventing new games and entertaining themselves, they just need the opportunity and encouragement to play.
- If your child doesn’t like organized sports, try to figure out why so you can suggest other options.
Does he have trouble with hand-eye coordination? Try biking, walking or running short distances together. I’m a big believer in yoga, for children as well as adults. Check out yoga classes for kids in your area.
- Exercise videos and video games that get your body moving, like Dance, Dance Revolution (DDR) and Wii games are a good way for kids to get physical activity.
Movement-oriented videos and games are a fun alternative to traditional exercise and still provide some of the same health benefits.
- Schedule a regular daily time for physical activity.
For example, after homework and before dinner, take a one-mile walk. Moderate activity can be as simple as walking in the neighborhood or tossing a football around. Try to engage in more vigorous activity three times a week or as often as possible.
- Put your kids on a TV/computer budget to not exceed two hours a day.
Give kids a TV allowance and help them to choose shows they really want to watch. Turn the TV on for pre-selected shows and turn it off afterwards. Keep the TV in a central location and out of kids’ bedrooms.
- Declare “Manual Labor Day.”
Labor-saving devices have lowered our calorie-burning by as much as 500 calories a day. To counter these effects, go manual one day during the week: hang sheets out to dry, weed the garden, wash the dishes and the windows by hand, dust and mop, take the stairs rather than escalators or elevators and put down the remote.
- Get an exercise buddy for yourself and your children.
Walking or working out with someone else increases your chances of staying with the program. Set walking dates with friends, decide on the amount time (for example, a 30-minutes) and make it at least a weekly commitment.
- Make physical activity a family challenge.
Challenge each other to do a few more reps or to go a little further with each walk. Make a chart and have kids record the family’s activity to help you keep track.
- Kick it old school in your own backyard or a local park.
Get a group of kids and grown-ups together for a cookout or campfire and some of those fun picnic games we all remember playing: duck-duck-goose, hot potato, and Simon says.
- Plant a tree.
Talk about what kind of tree you want – one that will flower, provide shade, be a home for birds, etc. – and then as a family choose a tree and plant it. Kids will take pride in watching it grow, knowing that they helped.
Frances Zappalla, DO, is a pediatric cardiologist with the Nemours Cardiac Center at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE. She trained in pediatric cardiology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and also completed a fellowship in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.