Does that high figure shock you? Because it shocked me. The Department of Health’s recommended amount of activity for a school age kid is just 60 minutes a day doing anything that gets their heart beating faster. That’s pretty much a run around the playground at recess and an afternoon tennis lesson. Or a walk to and from school and a jump on the trampoline. Or a game of skipping at lunch time and an after-dinner play at the playground. Or… well, you get the idea. It doesn’t seem to take much to fit in an hour of go-time each and every day, so what’s happening to our kids?
The truth is, I’m shocked at the figure, but I shouldn’t be. I don’t get 60 minutes of true exercise a day either and I reckon that’s true of many Australian parents. Maybe even 78% of parents?
We know that we are our children’s greatest role models. We know that children learn best by imitation. We know, we know, we know. Yet so many of us (myself included) preach a healthy lifestyle to our children that we are just not living ourselves. I read those MILO statistics (announcing the 6 April release of their MILO Champions app) and the first thing I thought was that we need to break the cycle.
The secret to raising active kids? Be an active parent.
Ironically, my kids are not in the 78% of kids who are not active kids. One way or another, each of my three get more than an hour of exercise every day, spurred on my their father who is fit and active and motivated to pass on his love of exercise to the kids. My girls enjoy being active, my boy not so much, but all three are out there having fun and moving each and every day and that’s really all there is to it.
I’m pledging today that I’m going to get off my butt and join in more often and if you’re one of the parents who is worried about your child’s lack of daily activity, I urge you to join me. Let’s be active for our kids and our health and lead the way to a fitter, healthier generation than our own has so far proved itself to be!
Here’s some of the things my kids get up to of an afternoon that I can join in with (and you might like to too).
Bike riding and scooting
We live on a relatively quiet street that has a very steep hill. Even the kids need to walk their bikes and scooters up it, but it’s worth it for the rush coming down. That hill makes bike riding daunting for me, but the whole point of doing a physical activity is to stick with it because each time it will get easier and easier. More hill climbs are in my future!
Jumping on the trampoline
I will probably wet my pants doing this one, but so be it. Jumping is lots and lots of fun and you hardly even notice how much hard work it is. Despite all the warnings about accidents and broken limbs, our $250 eBay trampoline is actually the best investment in our children’s health that we ever made. If you don’t have one, I urge you to get one in.
Do you remember Fly, or perhaps you’ve never heard of it before. Maybe you’ve played and called it something else. Either way, Fly is a game my kids love to play and all you need are a handful of sticks, a good run up and very long legs. If I get involved, I should be able to win this one easily… she says. You can find out how to play here.
My husband loves boxing for fitness and he’s got the kids hooked too. All you need are a pair of boxing gloves and a some pads and you can set up a mini-gym in the garage (which is exactly where we do our thing). I get in there and have a punch from time to time, but I could definitely participate more regularly. It’s so good for annihilating stress in a totally aggressive, utterly harmless way! We should also drag our massive punching bag out of storage and hang it back off the rafters: I have a lot of stress to punch and kick away plus the kids always enjoyed giving it a bear hug and going for a swing…
So, there’s bush walking and then there is walking up massive hills and rocks in the bush and I call that bush climbing. We happen to live on the side of a hill and behind and next to our house is all bush. Bush on a 90 degree angle, that is. I avoid walking in the bush because I’m scared of climbing all the big rocks and edges, but that needs to change. The kids regularly go for a walk up there and I know they’d go even more if I joined them.
The kids have always loved an obstacle course and even though they are all in late Primary school now (years 3, 5 and 6), they still relish a new course. Putting one together is super easy. It might go something like this:
10 star jumps
Bear walk to the tyre swing
15 swings on the swing
Bunny hop to the trampoline
28 jumps on the trampoline (and a somersault too)
Climb up and down the steps to the trampoline 5 times
Walk backwards to the house steps
Run up and down the house steps 5 times
10 big arm circles
Finish with 10 more star jumps
If that doesn’t get the blood pumping, nothing will. The trick for me will be to join the kids in any of the obstacle courses I set!
Unless it’s in a beautiful area, I’m hopeless at walking or running just for the exercise. I like my exercise to take me somewhere I need to go. We walk to the shops for baguettes on Sunday mornings. We walk to and from school. We walk to Scouts on Mondays. We walk to friend’s houses for a play date. Basically, if we can walk there in 30 minutes or less, we try to walk. If it takes up to an hour, we’ll still try to walk.
Layups and hoops
We’ve got a basketball out the back and it’s lots of fun to shoot hoops in the afternoon or before school. We either do it “round the world” style or we play a one-on-one game until one person gets a hoop in. It’s fun to commentate the games as we go, doing our serious sports-announcer voice and getting way too excited. Even just playing catch with the ball is more fun when you commentate.
If you don’t have a basketball hoop, you can still play with a basketball. We play a game we call “Immortal”, which probably has a real name and real rules, but this is our made-up version. The “immortal” stands in front of the other players and throws the ball to each of them randomly. The players need to be ready at all times to catch the ball as they are out of the game if they miss. The ball is thrown high, low, fast, slow, so it really keeps you on your toes. If the Immortal misses the ball, the player who threw it to her becomes the new Immortal.
It’s getting a bit cold now, but our pool gets a big workout all through summer. We play games in the pool that get the kids moving. Diving for hoops and batons; swimming races; practising butterfly; using the noodles to have sword fights while balancing on the pool toys. I especially like the games where they have to keep climbing in and out of the side of the pool (hard work!). A favourite is “Jump in if you like”, which is pretty self-explanatory: I call out “Jump in if you like maths” and they jump in if they like maths. We also do a version that goes “Jump in like a” and I’ll call out “Jump in like a turtle” and they’ll do a turtle jump. I’m not sure what a turtle jump looks like either, but it’s always very interesting! In any case, I need to be in my togs, doing the calls and doing the jumps right alongside the kids, rather than calling from the comfort of my sun lounger!
More ways to raise an active kid: