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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

It’s something we’re made aware of every day. Whether it be the lady on the morning chat show that kindly reminds you of what should be going in your child’s lunch box, an alarming bulletin while you’re browsing the internet – making you feel guilty about what you actually put in your child’s lunch box, or evening TV entertainment featuring a tragically overweight child that can’t remove himself from the sofa – making it quite regrettable that you didn’t take the lady’s advice about the lunch box.

The whole of society is constantly concerned with food. Food is always to blame, and if it’s not the food then it’s the parents fault for not pushing their kids to do more exercise. No one seems to help us with solutions though, not simple ones anyway. There are so many forums, discussions, debates, and quite frankly, utterly confusing information that leave us feeling either helpless or completely overwhelmed. If we look at the NHS information, the most trusted organisation in the country, the information is brilliant; there are stats, facts, and even some handy tips on how to carry out this exercise.

However, in a real-life environment where the kids have school, we have work, (and cleaning, cooking, organising these aforementioned munchkins, and everything else…), finding the time to create lengthy exercise timetables for them can be difficult, to say the least.

So how do we find time to arrange these exercise routines and actually keep it up for more than a week? According to the NHS, children under five should have 180 minutes worth of exercise per day, and it’s best for this to be a mixture of ‘light’ and ‘physical’ exercise. If the children are between the ages of five and eighteen, one hour of ‘aerobic activity’ is needed each day, featuring ‘moderate intensity’ and ‘vigorous intensity’. Strengthening the muscles and bones is key, while heart rates need to go up quite substantially.

But, what kind of realistic activities can we encourage our children to take part in, without it being just as dreaded as their pants-and-vest sessions in P.E? We can start by asking them what they would like to do; it sounds simple but if we approach the subject by quoting stats and figures while lecturing them about how to avoid becoming the next 16 stone child, it’s just not going to happen. We need to be a bit realistic, and think of activities that they would enjoy, as well as wanting to keep up for the long-term.

There isn’t much point in listing a bunch of sports and activities, because every child is different and every child will have different interests and different levels of fitness. However, it’s important not to worry too much about the length of exercise, and create short bursts of fun exercise instead.

A brilliant way of getting started is by finding out which activity and sports clubs are around in your local area; this’ll give you a good idea of how accessible they are, and of course how much money this may involve. There are plenty of free clubs, too – usually affiliated with schools. Then, simply talk to the children about what they would like to try, and if they’ve got any friends who would also like to join, this’ll be brilliant for moral support and will make it even more fun.

We can all remember those horrible swimming lessons that our own parents forced us to take; just the thought of those creepy rubber hats, and bricks that sit at the bottom of the pool waiting impatiently to be collected, makes us shudder slightly. We know they meant well, but the irony is, we would probably have thoroughly enjoyed it if we initiated it ourselves. It seems then, that our kids would have much more fun if we left it to them, with just a little bit of encouragement and support.

Hannah Davey is an expert in child play and a member of Big Game Hunters Playhouse Shop.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want healthy kids.

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