Between one fourth and one third of all kids in America are overweight, according to new research published this fall. And more alarmingly, kids are becoming overweight and obese at younger ages – eight to ten-year-olds were found to be the fastest-growing group.
Rates of type 2 diabetes, which is specifically related to being overweight and was once extremely rare in kids, have been rising steadily for many years as well.
Why is this happening? Diet is one factor, experts say, but the biggest culprit is the fact that kids are less active than ever before. The good news is that many families are taking steps to get kids moving.
Bike and walk to school month, which just wrapped up at the end of October, has more participants every year.
There’s even a new parenting movement, “re-wilding” that aims to get kids off their phones, computers, and video games and get them outdoors to play and explore nature.
How can you get your kids moving? The easiest way to do it is to make walking part of your family routine. Here’s how.
1. Buy everyone a step-tracker. Kids love goal challenges and gadgets, making the Fitbit and other step-trackers a natural fit. They love competition, too, so once they start tracking their steps, they’ll want to top their siblings and friends.
2. Make it fun. A jump rope, hula hoop, or even a magic wand can be all it takes to turn a couch potato kid into a fitness fiend. Figure out which games motivate your child and take it from there.
3. Trick them into walking. Parking further away is a tried-and-true tactic for making everyone walk – try it when shopping, going to school, and getting to sports practices. Instead of circling the block or parking lot looking for the closest space, do the opposite and grab the first one you see. Not only do you add a surprising number of steps, you save yourself from the stress of parking lot rage.
4. Join in games. Has Pokémon Go gotten your kids walking again? Games like this are a great way to make walking fun for kids. You can create your own, too – next time you’re planning a family stroll, picnic, or hike, make it a scavenger hunt and give your kids a list of things to find. You can have them collect objects like acorns and shells, or you can give them a list of landmarks and locations to photograph as they locate them. Don’t forget to have a reward – that way they’ll want to do it again!
5. Fly a kite. You can’t get a kite in the air without running and even once it’s aloft, you have to keep up with it. That’s the beauty of kite flying – it’s exercise disguised as play.