Toppling your child's sedentary blues
By Samantha Clayton
For decades we’ve been hearing that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to numerous health issues. But did you know that spending prolonged periods of time sitting around, especially on screens, can affect our mood? That’s right, a sedentary lifestyle can also have you feeling blue.
In fact, a research study published by the Mayo Clinic indicates that even one week of sedentary behavior can have a negative effect of your mood. This can be especially true with kids, as video games and social media can take a powerful hold on their attention. Getting up and being active is beneficial not only for your child’s physical health, but also for their mental and emotional wellbeing.
As a mom of four athletic teens, I’ve got my work cut out in keeping them active, healthy and engaged while they wait for sports to start back up. It’s a tough time for families, but with a bit of creativity and a coaching mindset we can all keep kids focused and active as we try to navigate the sedentary kids’ blues. It’s not easy, but it is possible to keep your budding athletes filled with positive energy and keep them moving.
Here are some tips to help you lift their spirits and beat those sedentary blues:
Set a routine. Formal sports may be cancelled but that does not mean the training has to stop. Make a training schedule for them to do on 3-4 days of the week. Getting set up into a formal routine helps to give them purpose and may keep them from feeling the lazy bones blues. The less you move the less motivated you become, so it’s important to spark that busy life vibe in the home. You may find that what was supposed to be a quick 20-minute session becomes much longer because they are enjoying their surroundings. It may take some coaxing to get them going but after a few sessions you may find that they are excited about it.
Get them up and outside: For every hour of sitting it’s great to get kids moving for a quick 10-minute standing/moving break. Setting a challenge for kids is a great way to keep them motivated and get them away from the television. Getting up from your seat at regular intervals can really make a difference and get the blood flowing. Exercising in beautiful outdoor surroundings is a great way to keep kids in shape. A simple walk or trip outside can easily be turned into a competition style family event. Games like first to the tree, or who can jump to touch the branch are all engaging ways that parents can encourage kids to work on athletic skills in a way that is simple and fun.
Ensure kids’ computer space is well set up. We all know that ergonomics are very important in the work place for adults, and with kids spending more time on devices at home, it’s important to encourage good posture for them early in their life to avoid potential postural issues. Ensure that they are not having to look down too much by elevating their chair and getting the computer at a good eye height. Reduced sports time in combination with added computer time is not a great mix for overall health and wellbeing so try to limit screen time as much as possible. Painting the room or hanging art and pictures that reflect the desired mood can help create a better environment. Warm colors like beige and lavender for a relaxing atmosphere, or bright blues and greens to pump up the energy. Allowing kids to refresh their space and encouraging them to display their sports gear is a great way to keep a positive attitude that this time is temporary.
Invest in some home exercise tools. Kids and gadgets tend to go well together; they naturally enjoy learning to use new tools. Something as simple as sitting on a stability ball is great for keeping your body engaged by engaging your core. The unstable position keeps your body moving and can boost core strength, while bouncing gently on the ball can give your mood a boost. The ab roller, medicine balls, jump ropes and simple inexpensive tools can keep kids busy and fit right in their room.
Sports specific items. Having some sporty items to use is important for athletic minded kids. A ball, a bat, a makeshift goal using cones, whatever you can muster to ensure they can do some targeted sports activities. This time has been great for playing old school games like stick ball in the street with a wiffle ball and plastic bat, as well as having them skateboard or ride a bike. The aim is to get them out, up and feeling the competitive spirit that is often a driving force for their overall mood.
Loosen Up. Since they haven’t been as active as before, your kids may feel sore from new activities. Stretching and muscle release techniques like self-massage can do wonders for relieving sore and tight muscles caused by post-workout soreness. Both sitting more than usual or overexerting yourself can lead to aches and pains that dampens the mood. Parents can teach kids how to do muscle releasing self-massage using a foam roller or tennis ball, as well as encourage kids to take warm baths too. Spend 10- minutes focusing on the areas that feel tight.
Encourage Positivity. As parents, we set the tone. Our mood can rub off on family members without us even realizing. Keeping an upbeat positive attitude can make a big difference in how kids manage a situation. Consider creating a vision board or goal list for what amazing things you will all enjoy once sports open up. Making some long-term goals will help keep kids focused on the future. Remember that positive actions and words start with positive thoughts, and helping kids to write their thoughts down is a good first step.
Use scents that influence the family mood. Consider using scents to help boost your mood and energy level. Having a particular scent that you associate with exercise is great for helping create a healthy habit. The smell of lavender, for instance, is very calming and soothing, so it’s a perfect way to get everyone in the family into a calm state before doing family yoga. On the other hand, peppermint and lemon are more uplifting scents to help get you energized. Having nice scents around the house, especially in the morning, is a good way to get the day started off with good energy. A few drops of aromatherapy oil in warm water is a good trick for making a room smell nice naturally.
Technology for good. The competitive energy is what many young athletes thrive on so finding a way for them to compete in some way can really help. Consider connecting with other team parents and help the kids to compete via technology. Push-up competitions, exercise minutes competitions and other simple trackable games are so fun to do virtually. Facetime and using apps such as Strava or an Apple watch can make the tracking portion easy. This type of physical fun is so healthy for the athletically-minded child and as adults we can benefit from this social aspect too.
Focus on healthy foods. Having a healthy food plan is essential for helping kids meet their daily energy needs, as well as keeping them within a suitable and healthy height and weight range. For active kids, ensuring that they get a good balanced diet with adequate protein is the key to success. Protein is an essential nutrient for building muscle, as well as promoting healthy skin, nails and hair. Another added bonus of consuming adequate amounts of protein is that it helps keep us feeling full for longer, keeping hunger at bay. Treat your kids to healthy snacks throughout the day. Adding some fresh fruit will boost vitamin consumption and help keep them feeling energized. Avoiding giving them too many foods or drinks that spike their blood sugar can also help with their mood. A spike is often followed by a low and I find that a nice steady approach is best.
Samantha Clayton is the vice president of Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness Education at Herbalife Nutrition. She represented Great Britain at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in both the 200 meters and the 4x100 meter relay. She is a certified personal trainer with specialty certifications in group fitness, youth fitness programming, senior fitness and athletic conditioning. Through group training sessions, fitness educational tools and the Herbalife Nutrition-sponsored blogs I Am Herbalife Nutrition and Discover Good Nutrition, Clayton ensures that consumers understand the vital role exercise plays in living a healthier and happier lifestyle. You can follow her on Instagram @samanthaclaytonfitness
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