Summer always provides fun and easy ways for kids to be active.
Yet as the weather turns cooler and your child’s days are occupied with eight hours of sitting at desks in school followed by another one to three hours of the same for homework at night, the opportunities for exercise, activity and movement become increasingly smaller and more difficult.
In fact, with the time demands of school and homework eating up a major portion of the day for kids, it is very easy to stumble into the excuse of "there’s no time to exercise."
A closer look at the facts shows this to be completely untrue. According to Nielsen Media Research, the average household exceeds eight hours of TV watching per day. Adding to that, the average Internet user spends more than three hours per day online.
While these numbers do not necessarily reflect every child and family situation, it is clear that both television and Internet usage are increasing while daily activity levels are decreasing.
I’m not asking parents to eliminate or entirely restrict their kids from either TV or the Internet. A well-rounded life is essential in terms of keeping stress in check and developing interests or hobbies. But daily physical exercise is important to that equation, so the key is not to remove the electronic gadgets but to develop strategies that coincide with their use and allow for family fitness time as well.
An easy policy to enact is what I call the "Commercial Routine"—perform a single exercise or participate in a fun game for the duration of a commercial break. It doesn’t have to be exhausting and you certainly don’t have to play your "Commercial Routine" during every break in the show, but developing the positive habit of being active even during your designated daily downtimes will go a long way in securing a brighter and more healthy future for you and your kids.
Below are a few sample exercises. Decide for one month that you will be active during eight to 10 commercial breaks during your nightly TV viewing. In month two, increase that to 12 or 15. By the end of one year, you and your children will have become active for roughly 20-30 minutes per day and have done so in a very fun and nonintrusive way.
This exercise is perfect for developing a strong heart, lungs and cardiovascular system. It is also helpful in establishing proper coordination in your child.
Perform jumping jacks as normal, but every so often (perhaps every 10 jumps) change your leg and arm directions so that they are moving front-to-back or in a crisscross manner.
This exercise is wonderful for cardiovascular conditioning and hand-eye coordination.
Blow up between eight to 20 balloons (depending on how many kids you have participating). Start by throwing one balloon up in the air. The objective is for you to keep all the balloons ‘up’ without letting them touch the ground. Every 10 seconds, throw another balloon into the mix. Your kids will need to keep a lookout on all the balloons and be sure to hit them up before they touch the ground.
Dynamic Simon Says
Just like tag, this conventional game is fun, but can also be a tremendous fitness-oriented experience when played with certain rules. "Simon" should create the game so that it incorporates movements based on: Jumping/hopping, crawling, skipping and throwing/kicking motions.
Don’t just stay in place. Make the participants move to gain added fitness benefits. Also, play the game at "warp speed"—have each "Simon command" come right after the other so the participants are constantly moving and changing direction.
Brian Grasso is the founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association. He conducts youth fitness and sports performance camps at the Prairie Stone Sports and Wellness Center in Hoffman Estates throughout the year. For more information, call (847) 767-4922.