3 ways to get young couch potatoes away from the screen

Get your child off the couch today
Get your child off the couch today

Do you have to nag your child to ditch the couch and TV for some fresh air? And so you should.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, children need between 35 and 60 minutes of exercise every day to stay lean and healthy and lower their risk for health problems later in their lives.

But moving them off the couch can be as hard as getting them to eat their vegetables. Part of the problem is that kids spend too much time with the TV, computers, cell phones, and video game consoles.

Bad habits form during childhood

On average American kids are in front of screens for a whopping seven-and-a-half hours a day. In South Africa the problem is just as bad.

According to a survey by the Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index among Discovery’s Vitality members, South Africa’s biggest couch potatoes live in Bloemfontein. 

A previous Health24 article states that 60% of women in South Africa are obese and that the obesity problem is on the rise. Bad habits are formed during childhood and become harder to break once the child is older.

And not only is obesity unhealthy, but it also increases the risk for several chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions later in life. A person suffering from diabetes has an increased risk of blindness through an inactive, unhealthy lifestyle. According to a previous study, children who are not getting enough physical activity are also be more prone to asthma and other respiratory problems at a later stage in their lives. 

Active children = healthy children

So how do you get your kids to put down the game controllers and get moving? Here are some practical tips on how to get your children off the couch and engage in a more active lifestyle. 

1. Limit screen time

Don't allow your children more than an hour or two screen time per day. Give them "tasks" to do in order to earn their hour of screen time; an hour of physical activity equals an hour screen time for example. Don't allow television sets or any devices with screens in their bedrooms. Not only is this distracting and tempting, but it could also prohibit them from getting quality sleep at night.


2. Schedule play into their day

Encourage them after school to play with a rugby ball, shoot hoops or jump rope before tackling their homework. Have an older child play ball with the dog as a daily job. Get active together. Play catch on a sunny day. After dinner go for a quick walk as a family.


3. Expose your kids to a variety of activities

Take advantage of the extramural activities offered by their schools. Expose your kids to a lot of different kinds of activities through sports teams or clubs. If they find something they love, they're more likely to stick with it as they move from primary school to high school. Studies have also shown that exercise does not only benefit your child's present and future health and physical appearance, but also academic performance. 


Read more:

Obese kids have different bacteria in their gut

Childhood obesity starts at home

Protein-rich breakfast combats childhood obesity
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