Just for Parents
Once kids are moving around and being active, they'll probably love it. It's just a case of encouraging them to move more. Making physical activity part of their daily routine is not only fun, but healthy.
A healthy habitBeing active for an hour or more a day is important for children's growth and development.
Plus it's a great way for them to make friends and learn new physical and social skills. Encouraging them to take part in physical activity when they're young helps to establish healthy habits that are likely to stay with them for life.
Two key points to remember:
- Children need at least 60 minutes (and up to several hours) of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
- Children should not spend more than 2 hours a day using electronic media for entertainment (e.g. computer games, TV, Internet), particularly during daylight hours.
A moderate activity will be about equal in intensity to a brisk walk, and could include a whole range of activities such as a bike ride or any sort of active play.
More vigorous activities will make kids 'huff and puff' and include sports such as football and netball, as well as activities such as ballet, running and swimming laps.
More is betterOf course, the more physical activity the better – ideally up to several hours each day. And the hours can be built up gradually throughout the day with a combination of moderate to vigorous activities that children enjoy.
Encouraging themLess active kids need plenty of encouragement and support, especially in the beginning. Organised sport isn't always their thing, so chat to them and find out what is. Ideally, find an activity you can do together. Here are some ways to get them moving:
- Be active around them – you're their role model after all!
- Include physical activity in family outings.
- Support active play, recreation and participation in sport.
- Encourage walking and cycling to school.
- Keep a list of fun activities handy, so that whenever you hear “I'm bored” you've got a suggestion ready to go.
- Keep a box full of bats, balls, kites, frisbees etc. – both at home and in the car and you will be always ready for action.
- Set a limit on time spent surfing the net, watching TV and playing computer games.
- Work with your child's school to increase physical activity opportunities.
- Work with Local Government to support walking, cycling and physical activity in your neighbourhood and community.
- Walk and talk – practice spelling and maths homework on the move; or simply take your kids for a walk while you catch up on their day.
- Give gifts or toys that promote physical activity (e.g. bats, balls, hula-hoops, frisbees,skipping ropes or bikes).
For more information on physical activity for children check out the Australia's Physical Activity Recommendations for Children and Young People. You could also check out the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults.
Just getting started?If your child is just beginning to get active, start with moderate activity – say 30 minutes a day – and steadily increase the time to an hour or more. As you increase it, try to introduce more vigorous activities.
Remember that variety is the spice of life – and not just for kids! So to keep things interesting for the adults too, keep trying new and interesting activities to keep motivated.
And don't forget that along with plenty of activity, children also need good foods for healthy growth and development including plenty of water. The more healthy foods they eat, the more energy and strength they have to take on their activities. And doing both together will help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
For information on healthy eating, see the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, the Food for Health - Dietary Guidelines for Adults/Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents or the 'Go for 2&5™ ' booklet, It's easy to find a way to get some extra fruit and vegies in your day.