14 Dec 2013 Exercise for the kiddos
by Katelin Whiddon
For some kids, exercise doesn’t come naturally. Some children almost require being thrown outside to get any sunshine and fresh air. Even kids who enjoy being outdoors burning off calories and energy have a difficult time finding ways to do so in the winter months.
It seems that generations ago, children were outdoors nearly all day. These days things are quite different. This may possibly be related to crime rates increasing, or just the introduction of more electronics, but whatever the cause, children are becoming more sedentary. As parents, we should try to get our kids more active, both indoors and outdoors.
When Daylight Saving Time ends, it makes outdoor exercise more challenging. By the time parents get home, it is dark outside. However, there are many places you can exercise indoors. In Conway, the McGee Center and Don Owen Complex are places where adults and children can walk, jog, play basketball, racquetball and other organized activities.
Organized sports are great for children, too. There is an organized sports activity during nearly any time of the year. These are great ways for kids to exercise and gain social skills with other children. These are often in well-lit areas so the earlier sunset does not interfere. If children are playing outdoors after dark, dress them in light-colored clothing. Teach your kids to always be aware of their surroundings to prevent any accidents.
Remember that children have a shorter attention span than adults. Because of this, be sure to keep exercise fun, creating games as you exercise. Children may not do as well with longer periods of exercise. You might try keeping exercise to 30 minutes or less at each time, unless the child wants to exercise longer. Try to do this at least 3-5 days per week.
Children are less likely to exercise and eat healthy if they do not see it in their home. Modeling a healthy lifestyle will encourage your child to develop good habits. Try to exercise together — go for a walk, ride bikes, play basketball, etc. The benefits of exercising together include not only the exercise itself, but also gives parents the opportunity to talk to our kids about their day, thus building stronger relationships.
Just as exercise is beneficial to adults, it is beneficial to children as well. Children that develop good eating and exercise habits at a young age are more likely to continue those habits into adulthood. Having these good habits will decrease the likelihood of diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions. Staying active and healthy also boosts self-confidence and improves school performance.
A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.