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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions so far?  Did you make one to get in shape or start eating healthier?  Hopefully if you did you’re in that small minority of people that can stick to your guns and keep it up.  While adults are getting in shape and eating healthier it is important not to forget about the miniature versions of ourselves and what we can do to help ensure a healthy adult life for them.

There is a lot of focus on getting kids to eat healthy.  Proposed soda taxes, banning unhealthy snacks from vending machines in schools, and other measures are aimed at curbing childhood obesity.  Equally as important as a healthy diet is a regimen of exercise.  The hard part however, is getting your kids to exercise.

As with any goal of trying to get kids to adopt a habit, it is recommended that you start as early as you can.  You might be wondering how early that actually is.  Well, the truth is you can start as soon as that kid starts bolting between every corner of the house at full speed.  While many parents may react by telling their kid to settle down, the smart thing to do is to harness that energy.

When to start

There are youth jogging / running groups that do exist, and while a child at the age of 3 or 4 may not be able to fully grasp the concept of organized exercise, enrolling them in one of these groups could be very beneficial.  Make sure that the group emphasizes having fun and is not too strict.  Believe it or not, it is very important to emphasize enjoying the activities.

Kids want to do something that is fun and the minute that something becomes a chore for them they will never want to do it.  This is why you want to have them engaged in a group that is fun, as well as one that has other kids around their age.  Just like adults in gyms have enjoyed a successful fitness program when they have a partner, young kids also enjoy their activities much more if they can do them with a friend.

Make it fun

A part of making it fun for them involves incorporating some kind of reward program.  Set realistic and reachable goals for your kid and reward them when they accomplish them.  Kids love to see an immediate payoff for their hard work, being as young as they are they have a hard time understanding the long term benefits or rewards that can be offered.  Give them appropriate rewards for reaching their goals and avoid gifts that make their healthy gains moot, such as taking them out for a fast food burger and a shake after they ran a half mile.

You can also use this as a great opportunity for helping your kids learn math and organizational skills.  Help them keep a journal and keep track of what they are accomplishing.  Consider making a fun game out of their exercise, such as a goal of running to the moon or running the length of Columbus’ journey to the new world.

Get involved

Your child’s fitness is a great opportunity for you as a parent to engage in a great bonding opportunity.  If you’re out of shape it could also be a great opportunity for you to get fit with your kid.  While at some point kids grow out of wanting to spend time with their parents, your younger ones will really enjoy participating in fun activities with you.

When your kids are running around the house, avoid the urge to tell them to settle down.  Instead, get them to focus that energy and make sure they have fun doing it.  When your kids adopt healthy habits at an early age they are more likely to maintain those in their later adult years leading to a healthier and longer life.

Dennis Aimes is a writer, parent and insurance adviser offering private health insurance from HBF in Australia.  In his spare time Dennis enjoys spending time with both his kids and his dogs and hoping that he doesn’t get worn out before they do.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their kids to be fit.