According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 20% of American children qualify as obese, and more are overweight. Long days at the screen aren’t doing our little ones any physical favors.

The burden of getting the youngest generation moving falls on our shoulders as parents. However, today’s hectic pace of life sometimes makes it challenging to compete with the screen when it comes to keeping little ones busy — but you should try. Here are eight natural ways to encourage fitness in our children.

1. Encourage PE Class at School

Many school districts have returned to in-person learning since the pandemic’s start, but that doesn’t mean that children are now getting their daily dose of fitness between the bells. Kids between the ages of 6 and 17 need 60 minutes of physical activity daily. However, only a third of them get this level of movement, and part of the problem lies with the curriculum.

Schools across the country have slashed “elective” courses such as physical education to teach the three Rs for standardized test purposes. However, this approach could backfire. Numerous studies show that recess is critical to helping students focus while in class. Forcing children to sit longer than is natural could adversely affect their academic performance.

Tragically, many educators strip recess away from the students who need it the most, confining them to the classroom for behavioral infractions. Letting them burn off their excess energy on the playground could solve frustration for both parties.

You can make a difference by attending school board meetings and advocating for physical education classes. Come armed with the research to support your assertions.

2. Take Them to the Playground

What do you and your kids do on the weekend? Why not take them to the playground? You could strengthen your bond while working your muscles.

Don’t passively sit by on the bench watching your littles have all the fun. You can squeeze in a complete playground workout in just 20 minutes. Likewise, don’t overlook the joy of zipping down the slide and climbing the monkey bars with your child — the perks of having kids include not looking silly while having a blast.

3. Dance

Is it a gray, rainy day? Why not bring the party indoors?

It doesn’t take much effort at all to dock your iPhone and boogie down in your living room. Challenge your little ones to a dance-off. You both benefit from the movement. Trying to follow each other’s moves increases your neuroplasticity, helping to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s.

4. Create an Obstacle Course

Here’s a fun activity to encourage fitness in your children that you can do outside or indoors. Constructing an obstacle course doesn’t take much money if you use household items, such as a broom handle for a limbo stick.

Pool noodles come in handy for this project — they’re soft and squishy, safe for little heads and hands. Empty cardboard boxes can become a crawling tunnel, or you can create a passage with pillows and blankets.

5. Explore the Great Outdoors

Taking your kids hiking and camping might rank among the best activities you can do during COVID-19. Why? Research shows exposure to the great outdoors boosts immune function while getting little bodies in motion.

Researchers investigated people who participated in “forest bathing” by taking an overnight camping trip. They discovered more activity in natural killer cells afterward. These immune cells help your body fight off infection.

6. Encourage Them to Sign Up for Sports

Do you have a budding young Mia Hamm or David Beckham on your hands? If so, why not encourage them to showcase their skills by signing up for soccer?

Encouraging your children to sign up for sports serves multiple purposes besides encouraging fitness. It also improves their social skills and makes them feel like a part of something. You shouldn’t force them to participate, but you can support them by taking them to practice and showing up for games.

7. Get Down on the Farm

Most children naturally gravitate towards working with animals. You won’t have to prod them to put down the video games if they know they’re going to see their favorite pony. They’ll benefit from the extra movement that comes from grooming and riding.

You don’t have to live in a rural area or have a lot of money to take advantage of this trick. Even if your lease says “no dogs allowed,” local animal shelters always need volunteers to walk puppies. You can introduce your littles to the joy of volunteering while getting them moving with needy doggos — a win-win.

8. Introduce Them to Yoga

Yoga benefits people of all ages — including children. The trick is introducing the moves in an age-appropriate way. For example, you can tell them to arch their back like a scared Halloween kitty when doing a cat pose.

Your little ones will love coming to the mat when they have the right gear. Outfit them with a few blocks and straps to encourage them to join you in your daily practice.

Natural Ways to Encourage Fitness in Our Children

The exercise habits your little ones develop in childhood often stay with them for life. Try these eight natural ways to encourage fitness in our children.

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