Children under 18 must be active for a minimum of 60 minutes per day with moderate to vigorous exercise but currently only 19% of Irish primary school aged children are reaching that target. The impact of inactivity in the early years can lead to obesity, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes in later years.
The HSE has identified that 25% of Irish 3-9 year olds are currently overweight or obese in Ireland and they have noted bullying, poor physical and mental health and an increased likelihood of being obese as an adult as problems arising for these children.
However, you can reverse this and support your child to make healthy changes by focusing on their home environment, placing an emphasis on healthy eating and getting active as a family.
Providing children with lots of access to opportunities to play is important. Children learn through play and the focus here is on movement in general. Playing on a swing, digging in sand, kicking a ball, chasing the dog,playing with a hula hoop – they all count as movement! Limiting screen time as a family and encouraging outdoor play as a habit is a great move towards getting children active. Introduce them to different types of activity such as dance classes, swimming lessons, football clubs etc and help them find the activity that they most enjoy. The important thing though is to focus on the joy of movement! It’s not about being the best but simply about feeling the best. This will help create positive relationships with fitness that will carry on into adulthood.
Be a role model. Children will mimic your behaviours and habits so if you are active, fit and healthy, there is a far higher chance they will be too.
Include your children in household activities – get them to make their beds, hoover and polish daily! Not only does it increase the amount of activity they get each day but it also helps to develop their sense of responsibility.
Give gifts that promote physical activity. How about a day trip to the zoo, or membership to dance classes, or a basketball ring for outside the house. Make a conscious decision to provide your children with activity.
Take an interest and play with your children. They will love the bonding time and will enjoy seeing you build an obstacle course with them or join them for a dance off!
Most importantly, make it fun and focus on the feeling. Don’t pressure kids, and don’t make it about their weight – make it about their happiness.