Getting fit nowadays seems to be a grand mix of getting your spandex on and strapping up with a bunch of technology and apps that’ll keep you motivated. But which apps are cool for kids to try out and what should kids be doing exercise-wise?
We have a global obesity problem. In fact, according to reports, childhood obesity is at its worst ever levels and its nasty twin Diabetes is gaining ground. And while we all know the importance of good nutrition and well-rounded exercise for every member of our family, it’s vitally important to keep our children healthy, while ensuring that they receive the nutrition they need to grow. Schools also play an important part, but the weekly exercise sessions that are included as part of the curriculum just aren’t enough. So while parents may be working it on the treadmill three times a week, their children aren’t necessarily getting the exercise they need to.
Advice from the experts
Catherine Viljoen, a qualified Biokineticist and MyVA Product Developer at Virgin Active, reminds us that: “Regular physical activity and healthy nutrition are two of the most important factors in helping to lower the risk of developing obesity and diabetes in kids. Replacing TV watching or screen time with at least 60 minutes of safe, fun play every day is a great way to keep kids active. It’s easy to do with a walk or bicycle ride around the block, playtime in the nearest park, playing active games such as hopscotch, dancing, throwing a frisbee, wheelbarrow races, kicking a soccer ball in the yard, playing netball or basketball (you may want to put up a hoop!), skipping (all you need is a skipping rope) or even ask your kids to get stuck in and help with household chores such as making beds, washing the car or gardening.”
It’s also important that parents be directly “involved in knowing what and how much children are eating or drinking and what’s best for him or her. Parents should plan in advance to ensure that the week ahead has nutritious snacks for lunchboxes and meals. This is often the best way to help ensure that they’re following a healthy eating plan. Involve your children in this planning and in packing their lunchbox, while talking about the benefits of the healthy foods. If possible, get a list of food items offered at the school tuckshop and teach your children why healthy food is important – they need to be able to make their own (healthy) decisions. And, importantly, replace unhealthy snacks (loaded with sugar) with healthier alternatives. This means replacing crisps, sweets, chocolates and fizzy drinks with plain popcorn, dried fruit, unsalted nuts and water for example. You don’t need to eliminate treats completely – your child will be exposed to these treats when you’re not around, so empower them to make healthy choices on their own. Always ensure that you pack at least 1-2 fruits or some raw veggies into lunchboxes on a daily basis and keep these accessible in the home too. Preparation is key here so make sure you’ve got fresh veggies washed and chopped and ready to go, so they are an easy first choice when hunting for a snack. Lastly, children learn by what we, as parents do, not always by what we say. Make sure that we’re eating healthily, exercising regularly and following a healthy, balanced lifestyle.”
When it comes to schools, Catherine Coupar, a qualified Sports Scientist and National Junior Member Manager at Virgin Active, recommends that: “schools should look at keeping it simple. It is easy to incorporate Physical Education and movement into schools, by focusing on movements that just require body weight and minimal equipment. Educators could incorporate small movement challenges into their classroom activities such as 10 jumping jacks at the start and end of each class. Physical Education classes should focus on fun and enjoyment because children are far more engaged when they are enjoying themselves and having a ball. Avoid activities that become monotonous and boring too quickly. Obstacle courses, relays, movement circuits and team challenges could all be considered. We should always aim to achieve 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity most days of the week, and for kids, this can be broken up into smaller, bite-sized chunks of a few minutes at a time.”
Of course, when mom and dad zoom off for a workout, there’s a bunch of kid-friendly activities available too, as Catherine reminds us: “Virgin Active offers Club-V facilities, for children aged 6 weeks to 7 years, and Club-V Max facilities for children aged 6 weeks to 13 years. We have 71 Club-V facilities and 18 Club-V Max facilities around the country, each with their own set of activities and offerings for children.”
There’s an app for that
And while mom and dad may be logging their workouts via their Fitbit or punching in their stats on Runtastic, many of these apps are not appropriate for still-developing bodies. Here’s a few that our team at DigiKids dug up, that might just help your kids get moving and make healthier food choices too:
Motionmaze is a puzzle game that’s activated by the user’s movements. Created for kids, Motionmaze gets kids to help Captain Mapp get where he needs to be by walking or jogging in place. It’s available for iOS here.
Making packing lunches a little easier a lot more fun, LaLaLunchbox is a slick and kid-centric app that turns a chore into a joy. Children select foods with the help of funny monsters, colours and sounds and the app takes the hassle out of parents’ hands, especially if there’s a picky eater in the house.
Yoga is a great way to build core physical strength and de-stress but, it’s not just for mom and dad to do – kids can too! Kids Yoga teaches children all the basic poses, putting a fun spin on exercise. Remember though, all exercise programmes should be approved by your doctor so ask them for their advice before hitting the install button.