According to Reuters Life, American children aren’t the only couch potatoes; nearly one third of children around the world spend three hours a day or more on computers, video games, or watching TV. The problem is everywhere—too many of our kids literally plop down in front of the TV or video game for hours, and they’re not moving their bodies.
Oh, and those Wii games don’t count for exercise either, sorry to tell you. A Swedish study at the University of Gothenburg compared the cognitive impact of running twenty minutes on a treadmill with twenty minutes of playing sports-style video games at a similar intensity. Running improved the test scores, while playing video games didn’t.
Your kids (and you) need to get up and move. Period. End of story.
As the parent, you need to initiate exercise and get your little couch potatoes moving. The best way is to model regular exercise yourself. Any exercise will do, and any time is good. In another Swedish study of over a million 18-year-old males in the army, a higher level of fitness correlated with a higher IQ, even among identical twins. The fitter the twin, the higher his IQ. It’s hard to argue with a study of over one million people.
When it comes to emotions, exercise also wins because your brain produces endorphins and enkephalens naturally when you move. The need for medication for depression, anxiety, and focus all go down when exercise goes up.
So there it is. Your brain (and your children’s brains) needs exercise. And the best part is that it doesn’t have to cost a cent unless you want it to. Here are some ideas to add exercise and movement into your family’s life.
- Establish the routine of exercise, and tell your kids afterwards how much better you feel after the activity. They will wonder what the big deal is.
- Try requiring exercise before letting your kids do something else they want to do. Tell them they have to ride their bikes or walk for 20 minutes before they can watch TV or go to a friend’s house.
- Bike or walk to the store with your kids, or leave the car in one place and run all your errands on foot. Park in the “back forty” of every parking lot and walk.
- Exercise together as a family. Plan weekend outings to the mountains that involve swimming, hiking, or rock climbing. Take a walk after dinner each night.
- Put the kids in charge of exercise one night a week. Maybe one child wants to go skating, while another enjoys strolling along the river.
Modeling exercise not only helps you get in shape and work your brain, it’s also a great teacher and helps you raise children who are not couch potatoes. What do you do to incorporate exercise into your life?