In Nova Scotia, children and youth aren’t reaching the recommended daily amount of physical activity. Adult Nova Scotians aren’t doing any better, and are amongst the most sedentary people in Canada.
To get to the root of the problem, we need solutions that involve individuals, stakeholders and policy makers. One place to start is to make our environment safer for everyone. When a community is safe for children, it’s safe for all generations, including seniors.
Get fit and have fun together
There’s also lots that parents can do to improve their own health while having fun with their kids. Opportunities to be active are often right in front of us: we just need to see them.
Here are a few suggestions that are simple and inexpensive (or free!), and that don’t require much planning:
Walk the talk
Going for a walk might sound boring, but making it a special mission or expedition is a good trick to get young children excited about it.
Try parking at the end of a parking lot or a few blocks away from your destination; walk with your kids to school, daycare or work. You can easily integrate walking into your day and then you won’t need to make time to hit the gym.
Most adults walk about five kilometres in one hour; you’ll be surprised by how many errands you can complete walking instead of driving. And when it comes to teenagers, walking or hiking together offers a safe (and screen-free!) space to spend time with your kids while getting healthy together.
Active kids = active parents
Time is precious and we all wish we had more of it. It only makes sense to pick activities that the whole family can enjoy together.
A friend of mine swims laps while her son has his swimming lesson. Similarly, she runs around the soccer field while he plays soccer; she can keep an eye on the game while being active herself.
Consider becoming involved in your child’s sports by coaching, officiating and assisting with practices. Doctors Nova Scotia’s Kids Run Club is a great Nova Scotia example. It’s a free, school-based running program for kids. Parents can help with practices or train with their children after school and on weekends, and the whole family can participate in local kids’ races and fun runs, like the Youth Running Series.
See the world like a toddler
Toddlers have an amazing ability to find opportunities to play everywhere they go: an empty box becomes a firetruck; a small hill helps them fly; sand becomes a castle.
Adults are often too busy to see opportunities to move and have fun: chase butterflies, run with the dog, race to the next stop sign, make snow angels while shovelling the driveway.
Don’t avoid the cold or the rain – jump in the puddles with your little ones. After all, being silly with the kids is one of the best part of parenting.
Remember that families are diverse and there’s no cookie-cutter approach to being active. But you can never go wrong by having fun, sharing time together and seeing the world like a three-year-old does. Just ask Elmo. Happy fall!
Dr. Marie-Claude Grégoire is a pediatrician in Halifax, specializing in pain and palliative medicine. She loves spending time running, walking and biking with her husband and toddler son. Follow her on Twitter at @DrMCGregoire.