You've seen the scary numbers: Childhood obesity is on the rise and diseases once mostly associated with adults, like type 2 diabetes, are growing among kids by equally epidemic proportions. You already know that getting kids physically active is a big part of the solution. So, what's the easiest way to pry your kid from the tube and get him or her outside for some activity, especially now that the weather is starting to warm up? Get walking!
-Walking is a great physical activity — it's natural, doesn't require any special clothing, equipment, or facilities and is one of the most effective ways that a person can exercise. Just strap on your sneakers and get moving!
-Using walking as a physical activity during childhood teaches children a lifetime exercise that can help build healthy bones and control weight. It also helps ward off future health evils such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
-Most people take between 4000 and 6000 steps during an average workday, however a healthy adult should be aiming for 10,000 steps. Kids should be taking 16,500 steps in a day, while healthy, older adults should be aiming for 6000 to 8500 steps. An excellent way to find out how many steps you and your family are taking is to wear a pedometer – they are inexpensive, light-weight, and are a sure-fire way to accurately gauge just how much you’re moving.
-Walks don't have to be long or fast — just get out there regularly. Kids need an hour of physical activity each day, but many schools have cut back on recess and high school phys-ed. An evening stroll can fill the gap in a sedentary day. For short trips, leave your car at home and walk instead, or park further away from the office, grocery store or dry cleaners.
-Walking to school is one way to help children walk more. They could try getting off the bus one stop early or you could park your car a few blocks away from school and then walking the rest of the way, giving their legs a bit more exercise each morning and afternoon.
-Set reasonable goals for adding distance to your walks, such as using landmarks to mark an end or turning point that you intend to reach. Keep the kids interested by asking them to pick the landmark. Or have everyone take turns picking an arbitrary number for your walks and, using your pedometer to count for you, use that as the benchmark for the number of steps you need to take before you turn around and head home.
-Other ways to keep kids interested and enjoying their walks: have them count the number of steps they take. Or make it a game and alternate between walking forwards and backwards every 50 steps. Play ‘I spy’ along the route or a version of Simon Says (ie: Simon Says walk like a penguin, like a bunny rabbit, like a gorilla, etc).
-Getting outside for a quick 20 or 30 minute walk is also a great way for mom or dad to get a bit of a break and some much needed alone time. If you are walking on your own though, be sure to stick to familiar paths and well-lit populated areas. Let someone know where you will be and when you intend to return. Wear reflective clothing at night, and don't forget to stay well-hydrated.