There is a great mantra that we use at TWIST that says,
Taking care of yourself, being accountable to your health and wellness, and setting yourself up for success is infectious. People recognize it, people respect it, and people react to it. It sets the tone for other people and suddenly they want to follow your example. This is how a movement begins.
As parents, we are constantly faced with new evolutionary challenges when it comes to keeping kids safe, active and healthy. Luckily, here in Canada in the 21st Century we don’t usually have to be concerned with being eaten by predators, hunted by enemies, starvation or scurvy . We are however faced with unique 1st World Problems that may not be as dramatic, but can still have long-term, devastating effects on the health and fitness of our kids.
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives; but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin (Evolutionist)
Certainly, technological advances in our culture and food industry have helped improve our way of life, making things easier and helping us all more efficient. Ironically this has also created a culture of simplicity and laziness that may now be an even greater risk to our health than the historical ones listed above. The ability to out-run a hungry Saber-toothed Tiger created a positive outcome (for the human, not the cat), and helped our ancestors evolve with each generation. The winners in the survival of the fittest race survived and stronger, healthier generations followed. Now, despite more opportunities than ever to be more active, get stronger and learn how to make better food choices, we are suddenly devolving as the overall health and fitness in North America continues to regress.
Darwin would not be impressed.
Luckily, we also live in a time with the opportunity and ability to recognize the problems and to actually do something about it. Making significant changes on a Global scale is difficult but not impossible and the strongest, smartest voices are finally being heard. Acting on a local scale is much easier and everyone has an opportunity to make better decisions and lead by example with their own health. Everyone can affect what happens in their own homes; that is the place we can truly make the biggest difference.
Do As I Say
Parental Encouragement is the classic do as I say not as I do option. “Go outside”, “turn off the TV”, “put down the iPad….“ It is also, the worst parenting excuse. It helps parents justify their own poor lifestyle choices and bad decisions and no matter how many times you tell yourself that the kids will make better choices than you do the reality is, why would they? Encouragement might improve the child’s tendency to be more active than the alternative but if you are telling your kids to be more active while sitting on the couch, smoking a cigarette and eating a bag of chips, I am guessing the long term effect will be minimal.
Know Your Role
“I am not a role model.” Charles Barkley (NBA Hall of Famer)
According to social cognitive theory (a major theory of human behavior), positive modeling promotes confidence and informs the child of what is important or valued. While involvement in structured exercise or sport programs may spark a child’s interest, it is equally important for parents to model healthy activity patterns and lifestyle choices in their day to day life. Participating in their own health and fitness programs, continuing to play their own sports or training for specific events and activities, even simple life decisions like biking to work, walking somewhere when you can drive, working in the yard, or seeking out any opportunity to be more physically active demonstrates the kind of work ethic and effort that most want to see from their children.
Not long ago, children typically walked to school and played outside after school from dawn to dusk. Today, the majority of children get a ride or take the bus to school and are in after school care programs or left on their own with iPads and Netflix until the parents get home. Because of these trends, parents need to make a more concerted effort to guide their child develop an active lifestyle.
Often parents assume that children receive their physical education through school and through participation in sports. While these provide children with a variety of active, educational and behavioral experiences, the limited amount of time in the school curriculum or even practice time for physical development vs. skill and tactical development in a practice is not sufficient for promoting health and fitness.
Elementary school Phys Ed classes are most often filled with a high number of kids with 25-35 in each class and often 2-3 classes combined to maximize time and resources of the school day. Many elementary schools do not even have a P.E. specialist on staff so the class is run by teachers without an education or background in teaching physical activity, understanding physical literacy and athletic development. High School kids who are not motivated will often drop P.E altogether the second they have the chance.
Even kids who are elite athletes are often not getting enough actual activity and exercise. A research study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine reveals that only 25% of kids get sufficient daily activity during team practices. Certainly chalk talks, tactical and positional play rehearsals etc., are all necessary parts of player and team development but do not contribute to the fitness and conditioning of the kids. For hockey specifically, ice time during games varies for specific players based on skill level and position and some kids at higher levels may not play at all. Extra activity, exercise and play outside of school is essential to their overall health, fitness and development. For children to develop fit, active and healthy lifestyles it is essential for them to see and feel this message at home as well.
Do as I Do
Kids will always have athletes, musicians, artists, authors and movie stars that they aspire to be or to be like, but the most important role models are the people closest to them in their lives that can actually give them the tools and empower them to make good decisions. The best way to do that is to lead by example.
“A leader of one a leader of many. If you can’t lead one, you can’t lead any.” The message of course is that before you can lead others you need to lead yourself to do the right things, make good choices, quarterback your own health and do whatever it takes to get a little better every day. If you do, others will follow. An amazing study in the UK of over 5400 children found that 11-12 year-olds showed greater physical activity than their peers if their parents had a history of hitting the gym at least twice a week vs. those with inactive parents.
Unlike Charles Barkely, parents do not have the option to deny their obligation to be role models. Kids see what parents do, hear what they say and mimic how they act. They look up to them, admire them and want to be like them. It is the parent’s job to guide them and encourage them to be even better. Taking on the responsibility of being a Role Model is an opportunity to be a better companion, a better parent, a better leader of yourself and your family and also a chance take advantage of this new responsibility to re-set your own level of health, fitness and engagement with them at the same time.
“Do or do not, there is no try” – Master Yoda (Jedi Master).
Saying you want to try to be a better role model is easy, actually doing it might require some help. Here is a list of 10 ways to get back in the game this fall and keep your family active, fit and healthy.
- Set some personal health and fitness goals and find a strategy to reach them
- Go Outside and play – summer makes it easy but don’t let the weather stop you
- Unplug – screen time consumes active time
- Sign up for a sport or physical challenge that inspires you (5km, triathlon, Foam Fest, Tough Mudder etc). Many now have kid versions as well.
- Get a dog – they need to walk and run every day too!
- Connect with a Nutrition expert or take a cooking class to learn about healthy choices, real food and eliminating processed food and sugar
- Plan a weekend adventure with activities, a picnic, camping etc.
- Try a new family sport or activity that everyone can learn together.
- Shop at Farmer’s markets and fresh meat/seafood shops together to ensure local, fresh, real food. Then fill in the gaps at the grocery store.
- Let a different person in the family plan a new activity each week to keep the ideas fresh and give everyone a chance to be creative.
We all know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. As a role model, every action results in an equal and inspiring interaction that is hugely rewarding for everyone. Too many parents sit on the sidelines and never get in the game themselves. Now is the time to get off the couch, unplug the tablet, plug-in with your family and get back in the game with your own health and fitness and be the kind of Role Model you would have wanted as a kid.
It might even come in handy. You never know when a Saber-toothed Tiger might be sneaking up behind you!
Be a Leader of One this November and take advantage of our TWIST November Promotion.
For every PT package purchased we will reward you with extra sessions to maximize your health, fitness and performance and help you BeReady for whatever life throws at you. We will also give you a gift card for a FREE session that you can give to someone else in order to help inspire them to become a Leader of One as well.
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