Getting our children more active

Getting our children more active

It can be difficult to encourage children to get active, especially as they become more and more reliant on technology for entertainment. In Finland meanwhile, parents are being advised that children should spend three hours a day performing physical activities, and encouraged to inspire interest in more physical pursuits. In a country where children are already known for being amongst the fittest in Europe, is there something that can be learned from our Scandinavian friends?

The Finnish example

Many people have made the link between the level of physical fitness amongst Finnish children and their high academic results. Sanni Grahn-Laasone, the Finnish Minister for Education and Culture has argued that physical activity not only helps children to be healthy, but makes them happier too through being able to develop social interaction skills. This in turn has an impact on their success at school. Whilst current World Health Organization guidelines say that children and teenagers should perform at least an hour of physical exercise a day, Finland believes that three hours is needed. In addition to the nation’s healthier diet and approach to childhood health, this could be a great example for parents in the UK to follow.

Encouraging children to be active

There are a number of ways to help children be more active to help them become healthier and to normalise physical activity as part of their daily routine. Some suggestions for getting more active include:

Walking or cycling to school

If your school is within a reasonable walking or cycling distance, you could ditch the car or the bus and make your own way to school. This provides great exercise for parents as well who could then continue the journey to work, whilst older children can make this journey with friends or alone as they become more independent.

Encourage after school sports or activities

Many children come straight home from school and spend the next few hours sat in front of a TV or a computer or tablet. By joining an after-school club they can at least get some form of physical activity which will not only help them to stay fit, but make new friends too. Activities do not have to involve a competitive sport such as football or rugby, and could be something like dancing, children’s Zumba or other activities which keep them moving for an hour or so. Finding something they enjoy is important to help ensure they stick to it.

Get a dog

This may sound like many parents’ nightmare, but having a dog can be a good way to encourage the family to be more active. Encourage children to play with the dog in the garden as a great way for them to get active without realising they’re doing so, whilst dog walking can be a nice family activity to enjoy before or after dinner. Having a pet teaches children responsibility too, and can be a great addition to the family for lonely children.

Be more active on weekends

Families could make the effort to take part in fun, active hobbies which also have the benefit of being physical. New crazes such as foot-golf, trampolining centres, climbing centres and others offer new and exciting ways to get active as a family, whilst bike rides and hiking are classic, free activities anyone can enjoy.

Give children household chores

Asking children to help around the house can stop them becoming lazy and teaches them to be independent. From gardening to helping with the dusting or ironing, children can learn many of the skills they need for themselves later in life as well as keep them moving. This can be a great way for them to earn pocket money as well as encourage discipline in the home.

Helping your children to get active is important, and setting a good example as parents makes a great start. NHS Choices has some great ideas for families to get active together, helping you to get healthier and fitter together.