CHANCES are you haven’t had too much trouble coaxing your kids outdoors during the fine summer we’ve been having.
Whether it’s riding bikes or walking on trails, children are more likely to be active if they’re outdoors, says physiotherapist and exercise scientist Avril Copeland. She points to Department of Health and Children guidelines, which recommend children do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily.
Yet, according to the 2010 Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study, only 14% of Irish 10 to 18-year-olds meet the recommendation. The same study found one in four children were unfit, overweight, or obese and had elevated blood pressure.
Regular physical activity promotes healthy growth and development; builds strong bones and muscles; improves balance, coordination, gross and fine motor skills; helps achieve and maintain healthy body weight; improves cardiovascular system; and boosts confidence, self-esteem, and social skills.
Enticing kids outside can sometimes be challenging. Screens — TV, Xbox, PlayStation — pose the main challenge. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no more then two hours a day of screen time. “Get TVs out of bedrooms, don’t have it on in the background, agree and schedule TV time,” advises Copeland. “If your kids already watch too much, scale back gradually and give the children other opportunities to fill their time.”
So how can you persuade them to go outdoors? Choose the right activity for the child’s age, says Copeland. “It should be one they can master and thus have a sense of accomplishment. Children under age four shouldn’t be in organised sports for example. Instead choose really simple activities that they can enjoy.”
Give children plenty of opportunity to be active. “Provide the right environment for this. Make it routine. Encourage active play by buying gifts that get kids active — skipping ropes, balls. It will get them active while developing and refining different skills,” says Copeland.
Above all, keep the focus on fun — if kids don’t enjoy it, they won’t do it.
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