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How to stop your kids from being couch potatoes during lockdown

Baby Yum Yum - couch potatoes during lockdown
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Lockdown is upon us. Indoor trampoline parks are a no-go. Zipline courses, too. And our kids’ unspent energy is building up like a ticking timebomb. Then, boom! This energy spills over into whining and squabbles and other types of carnage that make you want to pull your hair out. So, what do you do? You put a good movie on or hand over the iPad and release a sigh as your kids become little angels. What we call lockdown bliss.

But too much sitting and too much sugar and saturated fat, and we have a couple of couch potatoes on our hands. Not good. Children need at least one hour of physical activity a day that gets their heart and lungs working. It can be a few minutes here and there throughout the day, or all in one go, but it needs to be done. Here’s why.

Exercise helps to:

  • strengthen bones and muscles
  • strengthen the heart and lungs
  • increase self-confidence
  • enhance emotional wellbeing
  • control weight
  • reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes

When caught up in the world’s current crisis, your children’s physical health can almost seem secondary but now’s the time that you want them at their healthiest. So rather than seeing the inclusion of physical activity as a chore, see it as an opportunity to bond with them and develop positive habits that may well outlive the coronavirus.

So, if we want our children to be healthy, we need to get them moving, which during lockdown may require a bit of creativity. But don’t worry, for those of you out there that are creatively challenged, I have a few ideas.

We all know that gaming and screen time are physical activity’s arch enemies. It’s so much fun, so addictive, and oh so sedentary. And that’s why we need to make screen time work for us and our children’s health instead of against it. There are two ways to do it. Number one: use it as a bargaining tool and get your kids to earn their screen time. A little bit of physical activity for a little bit of screen time. And number two: encourage active gaming like Wii rather than the sitting-and-twiddling-your-thumbs version.

How to Prevent Your Child from Becoming a Couch Potato

Here are some online resources you may find helpful

(P.S. YouTube is about to become your new best friend)

  1. There are great kids HIIT exercise or dance-off videos on YouTube. A good one to try is The Body Coach which streams workouts for kids every day. These enjoyable sessions will keep your kids happy, healthy and active. There’s also Adventure to Fitness, Just Dance Kids, Kids Zumba, and Kidzbop. So, move the furniture back, make some space, and get moving.
  2. If you’re looking for a zen approach to lockdown, then check out Cosmic Yoga on YouTube. Aimed for ages three and up, these yoga-based videos are perfect for kids and get the seal of approval from teachers worldwide who have been using these videos in schools all over the world.
  3. Sadler’s Wells Theatre offers a different type of movement activity. The famous performing arts base in London has expanded its usual offering to include a series of at-home workshops on YouTube. Sessions last around 15 minutes and take children through a sequence of simple movement activities in a fun way. Each activity is themed, ranging from animals to colours to skills such as balancing and jumping.
  4. Check out a site called GoNoodle. It keeps kids get off the couch by getting them to use actions to control a suite of movement games designed to wake up their bodies and engage their minds while having tons of fun. All you need is a smart device and the free GoNoodle games app.

A little side note: Although these online resources encourage physical activity rather than turning your kids into little zombies, I would still limit screen time to no more than two hours a day.

Go vintage:

  • Take some chalk and try a little hopscotch on the driveway.
  • Play Simon Says but change Simon into a bit of a PT instructor who likes to make people run on the spot or crawl like a bear.
  • Play musical chairs.
  • Try a colour, shape, alphabet or garden scavenger hunt.
  • Play games like Twister.

Go simple:

  • Grab a ball and play in the garden.
  • Teach your child to skip.
  • Create an obstacle course.
  • Play the floor is lava (if you’re okay with your furniture being jumped on).
  • Play balloon tennis but don’t let the balloon touch the floor.
  • Turn on some music and get your boogie on.
  • Create your own workouts.

“When caught up in the world’s current crisis, your children’s physical health can almost seem secondary but now’s the time that you want them at their healthiest.”

Here’s an example of a fun 7-minute HIIT workout for kids.

Set an interval time and complete each animal movement for 45 seconds with 15 seconds rest in between. Do as many rounds as you can.

Frog jumps: Hop back and forth like a frog.
Bear walk: Keeping hips high, walk with hands and feet on the ground.
Gorilla shuffle: Sink into a low sumo squat and, with hands on the floor, shuffle around the room.
Starfish jumps: Do jumping jacks as fast as you can.
Cheetah run: Run on the spot as fast as you can.
Crab crawl: While seated, place your palms flat on the floor behind you, then lift your bottom off the floor and crawl about.
Elephant stomps: March on the spot and, lifting your knees as high as you can, stomp the ground as hard as you can.

This article was written for BabyYumYum by our partner chiropractor, Dr Tony Karpelowsky.

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