For some kids, summertime can provide a reason to get out and get active, but for others it can mean more TV time, more access to snacks and more time to be lazy. Don't let summertime lead to bulking up your kids, and yourself, by following these great tips from Amy Bohn, M.D., a family physician for the University of Michigan Health System:
- Limit "screen time." "There is a positive correlation between the amount of time that children spend in front of the TV, computer, or video games and obesity, so it's important to limit those types of activities to less than two hours a day," advises Bohn. By reducing time spent on sedentary activities, parents free up more time for their children to play outside and be active.
- Make activities fun. Exercise shouldn't be a chore, especially for children. With warm weather outside, kids cans do a variety of activities that involve both fun and fitness. "Parents should involve children in playful activities, as opposed to just doing things like puzzles and games," says Bohn. She recommends jumping rope, swimming, skateboarding, and bike riding as alternatives to inside play. Team sports also are great ways to promote activity, so encourage your child to join a community team such as softball, soccer or dance. Summer is a great time to get in shape for fall tryouts at school, too.
- Involve the whole family. Take turns choosing fun things to do as a group, such as going on a family bike ride, visiting a zoo, or even planting a garden. Kids are more likely to want to exercise and to enjoy if they are doing it alongside mom and dad. In addition, focusing on the family as a group helps prevent overweight children from feeling embarrassed or singled out. "As a parent, you don't want to be critical of your child because of the concerns we see with childhood obesity and lower self-esteem," says Bohn. "It's important to discuss it in the framework of the whole family being healthy and active."