This is the third in a series we’re working on with Levine Children’s Hospital as part of their Healthy Together initiative, a healthy lifestyles campaign with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. We asked Dr. Porter Peterson, pediatrician at Cabarrus Pediatrics, for her tips on keeping kids active. In case you missed our first two in this series, click here for Dr. Ana-Maria Temple’s advice on healthy eating and kids and click here for Dr. Kasey Scannell’s insights on screen time and kids.
About how many hours a day should the average kid be active?
What are some ways to encourage physical activity if my child isn’t “sporty”?
I think the important point to emphasize with your child is that they do not have to participate in an organized sport to be physically active. There are so many ways to be active, and this is what should be promoted. I always encourage outdoor play. Most of the time, if a child is outdoors, they will be doing something active, instead of sitting. Going on a walk or a bike ride can be a great way to get outside, along with being excellent, quality time for parents and children. Other great outdoor activities can include raking leaves, picking up sticks, playing tag with friends, jumping rope, roller skating, playing ball, climbing trees and so much more. Even if getting outdoors can be a struggle for your child, I encourage parents to model healthy, active behaviors themselves, as this is so important to provide motivation and inspiration for children.
Have you found technology like step counters and fitness apps to be helpful in promoting physical activity in kids? If so, which ones are most helpful?
I have to be honest and say that I am not one to mix technology with exercise. I think part of the goal of getting kids to be active is to get them away from electronics, so I stay unplugged when it comes to outdoor activities and exercise. There are certainly fitness apps for kids, including Iron Kids, NFL Play 60, and 7 Minute Workouts with Lazy Monster, which have some good reviews. However, I do not personally use exercise apps because they are not necessary for me. Yes, it is fun to be up on the newest technology and gadgets, but sometimes they take away from the true joy of being active and having a great time. I think starting with the basics of just being active is the priority, and then you can build from there as to what works for your family and what motivates them.
Do you have any “out of the box” ideas to encourage sedentary children to get up and move?
There are so many things you can do to be active and not even realize it! Younger kids may enjoy a fun timed maze around the yard or a walk that includes a game of I Spy. Gardening is a great activity that can have many rewards when a child sees and eats what they grow! Invite a friend or two over and play a game of tag, hide and seek, cops and robbers…all of the games we loved as kids. Have a dance party, indoors or outdoors, as this should get everyone up and moving! Going camping and/or taking a hike through the woods are also exciting activities. Furthermore, always keep balls on hand – there are so many fun things to do with them that can keep your children active. Finally, use active play as a reward for something, instead of rewarding with food, movies or toys. There are so many great places to have fun and work those muscles – a trampoline park, roller skating, ice skating, the park, obstacle course, and much more!
We all know that kids model parents’ behavior – what are your tips for fitting in exercise as a busy working mom?
If exercising is not something you do regularly, then it will be a lifestyle change for you and must be approached in a stepwise fashion. Find something that you like, can and will do. This may be running, walking, bike riding, group fitness class, swimming or something else. Then, set a goal for yourself but make sure it is attainable so that you are motivated to accomplish it. For example, if you are starting to run, set a goal of completing a certain distance without walking. This is something you can immediately work towards and hopefully, will motivate you! Team up with a friend to accomplish the goal together! By doing this, you are holding each other accountable while also having a good time together, With time, the more you stick with an activity, the more it becomes an active part of your life, because there are many benefits of exercise beyond physical health!
As I have gotten older, I have really come to understand that exercise plays a bigger role than simply keeping my body healthy. Exercise is what provides me with a sense of balance and renewed energy, which helps me to be a better mother, wife and doctor. However, I realize that I will not always have time to work out each day, which is okay because there are so many ways to stay active. All activity counts and is what should be promoted so use those stairs instead of an elevator, park the car a little further from the store, have a dance party any time of the day, play catch or Frisbee with your kids…the goal for everyone is to get up and move!
More from Levine Children’s Hospital on their Healthy Together initiative:
Healthy habits are important for the whole family. For a smart game plan to get you there, follow 5-2-1-0. Every day, eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, limit screen time from TVs, video games, smartphones and other devices to 2 hours or less, get at least 1 hour of physical activity, and aim for 0 sugary drinks, drinking water or low-fat milk instead. To learn more about 5-2-1-0, access fun health tips and activities, and pledge to be healthy together with your family. Take the pledge and join the 5-2-1-0 League of healthy families in our community!
About Dr. Peterson
Dr. Peterson has been happily married to her husband, Ben Peterson, for 11 years. They have 2 boys, ages 8 and 5, who keep things fully energized in their home! They also have 2 furry children – Riley (the eleven-year-old yellow lab) and Delilah (the one-year-old Olde English Bulldogge). They were fortunate enough to return to her hometown, Concord, NC, 7 years ago and to still be living there now. She practices general pediatrics at Cabarrus Pediatrics, which is the group she went to as a child! Besides balancing work and the demands of motherhood, she is passionate about running and enjoys being active in the community and their church. Furthermore, she loves traveling and creating many wonderful memories with her family!