With the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to family routines are inevitable. Working from home and e-learning mean spending more time on screens for families and less time being active. Children are used to being active in school with recess, physical education class and organized sports. What are you doing to help your children stay active during this health crisis? As a parent, you will need to set the example. Showing your children what maintaining a healthy lifestyle looks like can give them a head start on adopting those behaviors and making a lifetime commitment to them.
An active lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle. Keep your children moving and encourage them to view exercise as fun, not a chore. Exercise in children has many health benefits. Even moderate physical activity helps children build good cardiovascular strength and burn those excess calories that can turn into extra weight. Exercise helps improve the quantity and quality of sleep. Kids who exercise have greater self-esteem. Exercise also helps children stay alert and more focused for learning.
How you can stay active with your family
Staying active can be as simple as having a dance party in your living room. Outdoor opportunities include taking a walk, gardening, playing touch football in the backyard and riding bikes. Make exercise fun by creating goals for your family and competing together. For example, if you have older children who have activity trackers, set a family step goal. Whoever reaches the most steps at the end of the month gets a reward. All these activities encourage physical exercise while still maintaining a social distance from others.
Top benefits of getting fit (and having fun) with your family
Manage stress. The changes to family routines during the coronavirus outbreak can cause more stress and anxiety. This can result in behavioral changes in kids such as an increase in tantrums and acting out. Physical activity increases endorphins while decreasing stress. This can improve kids’ moods and behaviors which can benefit the whole family dynamic.
Bonding. Group activities help build relationships, strengthen bonds and forge lasting memories. Even if you're just kicking around a soccer ball or walking the dog together, your children love spending time with you and feel special when you carve out time to be with them.
Communication. Children tend to share more when you participate in activities with them. If you want your children to open up, start playing with them.
Benefits for you. Children need to see you walking the walk and not just talking the talk. This helps ensure that your message about the importance of exercise sinks in. By playing with your children, you're actively demonstrating that burning calories, strengthening your heart and toning your muscles makes a vital contribution to staying happy and productive.
Finally, family activities are actually fun for you, too! Playtime is quality time. Every moment you dedicate to family togetherness and health is an invaluable investment in your children's future.
Dr. Natalie Kurtz is a pediatrician with Goshen Physicians Pediatrics. Born and raised in Goshen, Dr. Kurtz is passionate about serving her community. She is dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of children through preventive medicine and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses.