Children look forward to summer vacation all year long. For some kids, this might be the lure of what they hope is unlimited screen time. In many homes, summer may not be a day off for everyone, but it certainly frees kids from the constraints of the full school year and gives them time to relax, pursue other interests, and try new activities.
The long, relatively carefree days of summer are the perfect time to help your child develop healthier habits, like getting regular exercise and managing screen time. Screen time self-monitoring will be very helpful for your child in the future as it teaches balance and self-control. If parents can learn how to help their children develop good exercise habits, it will be easier to help them control other behaviors and also limit their own screen time. Regular exercise is not only beneficial for our body, but also has strong effects on our mental abilities. This can greatly improve a child’s success in school. What better way to take advantage of the summer holidays?
Building a habit may sound easy, but it’s not! It takes time, commitment and motivation. The results of a study conducted at the University College of London indicate that it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Coincidentally, that’s almost exactly the amount of time you’ll have during your child’s summer vacation to develop the habit of exercise.
This idea that exercise is important not only applies to children, but also to adults! For adults, exercise not only provides a variety of physical and emotional benefits, it also changes the brain. Exercise increases the production of a brain protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which improves cognitive abilities and helps manage stress.
Creating a summer exercise habit also means getting your kids out and cutting back on screen time. You can even use screen time not only as a reward for exercising, but also as a tool that guides and inspires. Fitness games are available on virtually all consoles and devices, and there is ample evidence that sports-based video games increase sports participation. Virtual reality is going mainstream, and it’s not hard to get kids and teens excited about VR-based exercise by watching a few YouTube videos.
If you plan to make exercise a regular habit for your kids, you’ll want to learn about the benefits of exercise. You’ll need to be able to explain the cognitive and emotional benefits of regular exercise to help your children understand the value of an exercise habit to their brains and bodies. The research is compelling: Children who engage in regular vigorous exercise attend better, perform better in school, and remember better than their less active peers.
Here are five tips to help your kids develop good exercise habits:
Once you start a regular exercise routine, make sure your kids realize they’re improving their fitness and concentration.
1. Be consistent but flexible.
Making exercise a habit will require you to set a minimum number of days a week (five days a week should do the trick, although daily is ideal for setting the habit in stone). Talk to your kids about exercise every day so it’s always top of mind. Try to have a daily schedule and routine for exercising, but be flexible about how you go about creating a habit. If you spend a playdate with friends running outside or swimming in a pool, count it as the day’s workout. If you or your child gravitate toward a specific type of exercise, make a conscious effort to mix it up.
2. Make sure the exercise is accessible.
Even if you live in a warmer climate, it’s probably not practical or possible to swim every day in your backyard pool. If you’re not prepared to take your child to a pool five times a week during the colder months, you’ll need to make sure your child has access to and is comfortable with another form of exercise. Be willing to hit up a local gym, brave the cold weather for a winter hike with the kid, or find a way to make indoor exercise appealing. Fitness video games can make living room workouts easy and fun. You can even try pairing an exercise bike with screen time, like watching a show on Netflix or listening to audiobooks or podcasts.
3. Find an activity your child likes to do.
Your child doesn’t need to love you, but he should give you satisfaction. If needed, add music or other screen-based entertainment to make it engaging.
Alternating between exercises, such as walking, running, and hiking, might keep them fired up. Introducing new physical activities has the added benefit of getting your child to try something the child doesn’t even know they excel at. Finding something new that the child is good at, even if it is difficult, can create a sense of satisfaction that keeps the child coming back for more.
4. Cross training is as good for you as it is for your children.
Alternating between different physical activities exercises different muscles and calls on different areas of the brain. Dancing, team sports, biking, and running all require varying combinations of executive functions. Encouraging your child to cross-train can mean signing him up for seasonal sports (from soccer to basketball to baseball to softball) or setting up a family adventure day every week that includes different types of active play and exercise.
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5. Stay local.
Anything you can do close to home and take advantage of your local resources is more practical and repeatable. You can use the nearby gym, although it doesn’t offer as many options as the one in the next town. If you live near a bike trail or park, make it the destination for walking and biking. If you live in the city, try walking places instead of driving.
If you take the time to make exercise a habit this summer, be sure to find a way to fit in that habit during the school year as well. You may need to adjust your demands around homework so that the exercise, which is likely to help your child stay focused and be more efficient in completing homework, comes before sitting down with schoolbooks or front-of-screen time. screen. Consider rearranging your dinner schedule so the family can exercise before dinner.
If you’re short on time, shorter interval training has been shown to have great physical and mental health benefits. You will see the difference, not only in your child’s performance in school, but also in their attitude and approach at home.