The convenience of fun – movies on demand, X-box and Wii, the Internet – makes it easier for our children to be less active. Children spend more time in front of a screen, watching 3-4 hours of TV per day, than they spend being physically active. As reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the recommended 60 minutes of daily activity is completed by only 36 percent of American high school students, whereas 12.5 million children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese.
Despite these alarming statistics, our children still prefer to sit and text instead of jump and stretch. However, you can make a difference in the amount of physical activity your child receives by incorporating it into your family’s schedule.
Jump rope competitions
You can’t have better fun with a clothesline than getting several people together and jumping rope. It’s not only good for your body, it’s good for your spirit. An aerobic activity such as rope-jumping – combined with healthy eating – leads to weight loss, increased energy, and a general feeling of well-being. Purchase a 100-foot plastic clothesline from a hardware or discount retail store. Then enroll your family in a jump-rope competition. Divide your family into two or more teams. You can divide teams by age (i.e., adults vs. children) or gender (males against females). Compete to see how long or how well teams can jump rope. Start off jumping single rope and work your way up to double-Dutch, where you skillfully jump using two ropes. There are all types of jump-rope games your family can play. Think back to when you were a kid or question your Facebook friends for a few ideas. Then utilize the spring temps and get your family moving.
Creating fitness routines
Have your kids lead the family in a fitness routine. Give each the challenge of putting together a workout routine using the exercises they do in gym class and one of their favorite tunes. They could do jumping jacks and squats to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” or push-ups and crunches to T.I.’s “Live Your Life.” Encourage them to be creative but active. Once they have their routines organized, they can lead the family workout on Saturday mornings or any day your schedule allows. If you want, create a workout routine of your own and then teach it to your family. The more routines, the healthier you’ll become.
If a workout routine is too strenuous, have your kids create a dance routine to a song that you select. By providing them with the music, you can set the pace and intensity of the workout. For example, Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” may bring on more sweat than Marvin Sapp’s “Praise Him in Advance.” It will also give your children the opportunity to learn about different types of music if your tastes differ.
Think your children do more texting than flexing? Compete in pedometer challenges to find out. Pedometers are portable devices that measure how far you walk or jog. They come in different styles and prices, and some phones even have pedometer apps. Talk to a salesperson at a sports store to see which type would meet your family’s needs. Once every family member has a pedometer, have your family reset their devices to 0 at the start of the week. Then wear your pedometers throughout the week while doing your daily routines and exercises.
The challenge will encourage competition, and you might find your children spending their Saturday mornings running in the park instead of sleeping in. Every other day, or at the end of the week, get together as a family and see who did the most walking. Then reward the winner with an inexpensive incentive -king or queen for the day or eliminating a previously assigned chore.
As with any exercise plan, remember to consult your family physician beforehand. Then use one of these activities to get your family moving.
China Hill is a curriculum writer for KIPP Ascend Charter School on the West Side.