But that’s no excuse for your children to be sedentary or inactive. I know it’s hard in the winter to keep your children active: it’s cold, it gets dark earlier and, of course, there’s homework for older children and a long list of things that simply must get accomplished.
However, we need to remember that our heart is a muscle and needs daily exercise to stay healthy and strong. Children as young as 3 or 4 years old may show early signs of changes to their arteries that could cause eventual heart attacks. Surprisingly, signs of heart disease can appear as early as ten years old, making regular exercise and health nutrition critical.
So what can a parent do?
Limit Television and computer time.
If you do let them have screen time, mix it up with some kind of movement. For instance, if they are watching a show, have them run in place during the commercials. For every ten minutes on the computer, they owe you five minutes of dancing to music or running around the yard.
Park farther from store entrances and walk, run, hop, or skip into the store.
Take the stairs and count the number of stairs. Turn exercise into a learning experience.
Read a book and have them act it out.
Play games that encourage movement, like charades or follow the leader.
Hide items around the house and have your children go find them. For each item, have them move a different way to go find it. For example, you need to hop like a bunny to find the plastic egg or walk on your tiptoes to find your stuffed animal. This is also a great way to encourage them to pick up their rooms.
Get creative, have fun, and most of all, make sure you participate with them. A good role model is very important and will make a lasting impression. I know it can be hard, but in the long run it will create a lifetime of health and happiness for you and your child.
Martha Swirzinski, M.A.