Too Busy For After-School Sports? Backyard Fitness Keeps Kids Healthy

Filed under: Big Kids, Tweens, Teens, Activities: Babies, Development/Milestones: Babies

Dear Reggie,
We are busy working parents of three wonderful kids between the ages of five and nine. Our kids do not play on any sports teams outside of school. By the time we finish work, race through traffic to pick them up on time from daycare and then put dinner on the table, we are completely exhausted and it's almost their bedtime. Signing them up for a sport or activity two to three evenings a week seems inconceivable, as we are already stressed and pressed for time. Do you have any suggestions that will help keep our kids healthy? Thanks, Mrs. Persaud

Hello Mrs. Persaud,
First, I would like to assure you that you are not alone. Many of us face the same dilemma as we struggle to fit everything in the weekly schedule. Try and keep a level head during these stressful times and take refuge in knowing that it is possible to keep your kids fit with limited time by making two simple adjustments in their daily routine...


Adjustment One: The Power of Combining Healthy Eating and Consistent Exercise

As the media report only snippets of health research articles on a regular basis, many parents are left dazed and confused as to what are the minimum standards of exercise. First it was 20 minutes a day of vigorous activity, then it was 30 minutes a day of high-intensity activity and then it jumped to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. Recently, the research stated 90 minutes of daily combined activity for optimal health and fitness. This number is high enough to put most of us into panic mode.

Keep in mind that the underlying message behind all of these research studies is to exercise enough to keep kids from becoming overweight and obese. If 90 minutes a day seems impossible, the good news is that maintaining a healthy weight is equally reliant on healthy eating behaviours. Smaller, healthier and well-balanced portions can have as large an impact as daily exercise (if not more) on your kids' waistlines. So much so that I can confidently say 30 to 45 minutes of daily intense activity in combination with a healthy diet is sufficient. So the 90 minute rule is cut down by 50 to 65 percent. (Make sure to consult a nutritionist or registered dietitian for food advice.)

Adjustment Two: Home and Backyard Fitness

The "lack of time" excuse is easily diffused when you implement exercise at home. The 30-minute dinner preparation time is a perfect opportunity for your kids to exercise. Have them play together in the backyard or in a designated space in your home if you don't have a backyard. You do not need a lot of space. Have them try these exercises in a circuit:

1. As many jumping jacks as you can in two minutes
2. As many push-ups as you can in one minute
3. As many touches of cones placed 10 to 20 yards apart in two minutes
4. As many abdominal crunches as you can in two minutes
5. 20 to 30 squat-jumps, reaching as high as possible in the air
6. Abdominal plank exercise for up to two minutes
7. Five-minute mini-game of soccer or tag

Repeating this circuit twice will keep their heart rates elevated, have them sweating and burning a lot of calories. It should also give them a much-needed energy boost and clearer mind to finish their homework!

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, some parents take the "all or none" approach when it comes to exercise. If they can't fit in 60 or 90 minutes, then they neglect to put it in the schedule or daily routine. I always tell parents that some exercise is better than no exercise. If they accumulate 20 minutes at school and 30 minutes at home, the chances of them staying healthy are greatly increased.

Reggie Reyes is a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer. He is the president and founder of pt4kids a company that creates specialized training programs for kids all ages and fitness levels.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.