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How to get your children off the screens and out into the sunshine

If you’re concerned your kids are turning into screen sloths, then attending a gym might inspire them to get a wiggle on.

By Monique McKenzie
Back in the day, telling kids to go play outside was a piece of cake.
In no time they'd be climbing trees, throwing a ball around, playing hopscotch, or engaging in rough-and-tumble. Today, however, chances are they're more likely to be glued to their screens on the sofa than out in the sunshine.
We all know the importance of getting young people moving and as we become more health and wellbeing-conscious, we're turning our attention towards the need to educate the younger generation on better lifestyle choices.
In a bid to show little ones the importance of being active, many gyms have started classes that specifically cater for children, with the likes of HIIT training and cardio sessions available for kids.
Some of the biggest names in fitness are getting on board with this growing trend, such as Les Mills. The fitness company's Born to Move classes for young people, aged two to 16, are all about inspiring kids to fall in love with physical activity.
The program gets littlies performing carefully devised moves suited to their developmental stage, along with fun music and easy-to-follow instructions. It is currently being rolled out in schools and childcare centres.
In April, F45 launched its newest model, Prodigy – a specially designed high interval training (HIIT) program for children, aged 11 to 17. The classes focus on exercises critical for childhood and adolescent development, with activities to strengthen muscles and promote strong bones.
Traditionally, participating in team sports has been the cornerstone of children's fitness and it brings with it many other benefits like helping to build self-esteem, endurance and stamina, and teaches them important life skills such as leadership and how to develop friendships.
But on the other side of the coin, many sports and activities for young people are competitive, which doesn't suit all personality types and may discourage participation, so that's where attending a gym class may be a good alternative.

Keeping the focus on fitness being fun

Of course, there's the question of whether a child should be on an exercise program. But proponents argue that as long as the focus is on having fun rather than on body image, then it's creating a healthy future and helping children shape positive physical habits.
That's the vision of Les Mills' Born to Move, which aims to feed young people's natural appetite for action, movement and play – and let them enjoy the energy, confidence, good health and increased ability that goes with it. All of the moves are pre-tested to ensure they push young people to experience the full extent of their ability, while being safe for their age group.
"The early years of life are a critical window to form positive habits. That's why we've developed Born to Move. We want to instill a love of being active in children so they can grow into active, healthy and happy adults," Dr Jackie Mills MD, Les Mills' chief creative officer says.
The New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18 showed that almost one-third of children, aged two to 14, were overweight or obese, and many believe an addiction to social media, Netflix and Xbox games could be contributing to these growing statistics.
Therefore it's important to encourage our children to enjoy the benefits of an active lifestyle. With so many classes out there, there's no doubt that kids' gyms will continue to rise in popularity.
But if you're still not convinced, there are other ways to encourage them to get active.

How to encourage children's fitness

Don't underestimate the tried and true favourites like having a swing set, jungle gym, or trampoline in the back garden.
For Spiderman fans, what about putting a 'web' on their bedroom wall. From ropes to fitness rings, a mini-gym in playrooms or set up outside the house will allow them to be creative and have fun without even knowing it's exercise.
Does your kid love pretend fighting? Sounds like they'd enjoy karate.
Does the other love to twirl around in circles? Sign that one up for a ballet class!
Teaching your children to be active should be enjoyable but it begins with you. Make it good, and set an example of an active life yourself so they'll be sure to follow.
Other great ways to keep your little ones active:
  • Rock climbing
  • Roller or ice skating
  • Cycling
  • Dance classes
  • Orienteering
Remember… Customise an exercise plan to fit their taste, not yours. Keep the focus off of their bodies or their appearance and play up the fun factors.

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