We all know that exercise is good for us, but new guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer say that this shouldn’t be limited to trips to the gym or jogging to work. Instead we should be thinking about encouraging physical activity from a really young age – before a child is five. The new guidelines even set out ways of helping babies to be more active! Here are five great ways to get your little one moving.

Here’s a great article from the Tesco Magazine

1. Do as I do

Dr Nik Johnson, a consultant paediatrician with a sports background, says the most important factor in getting your children fit and healthy is you. Encouraging them to play football while you sit on the sofa isn’t going to work. You need to play football. Active parents will have active children and that’s because children learn by example.

2. Fun runs

Young children want to be active. They love running around. As a parent you just need to encourage them. If they are looking a bit wriggly, set up a race. If there’s not much space, make it a hopping race, or a race using the hopscotch moves. That way they use lots of energy and it’s fun. Or put on some loud music and have a disco with energetic dancing. It’s important that running about and using energy is not forced upon children or a chore.

3. Let them be

The new guidelines say that children should be moving about for at least three hours a day. At the moment the average is two to two and a half hours a day. Activities such as long journeys in car seats, pushchairs or watching television can get in the way of children doing the running around which comes naturally to them. To stop this from happening Dr Nik Johnson says we should prioritise exercise. Look for an excuse to walk/run/skip to the park rather than go by car. It might take longer but if you count having a fit, active child as important, then it’s worth those extra minutes.

When your child spends ages walking along walls, poking sticks into drains and jumping off kerbs, try not to go through the mental checklist of all the things you should be doing at home. Instead encourage them to explore, have adventures, climb on walls and challenge themselves. This is where they learn about risk. It’s why things like interactive games consoles only work on one level – children may use up some energy, but they aren’t learning important lessons about the world around them and what is safe.

4. Screen time

Television is the saviour of most parents. Switch it on while cooking lunch, or for half an hour while the children recover from a hectic morning at the sandpit, and it turns stressful chaos into calm. But leave it on for too long and your children become lethargic and inert – research shows that watching television even causes children’s metabolic rate to slow down to below that of sleep. By reducing the time spent watching TV, using the computer or playing video games, you increase the amount of time they could be running around being active.

5. Baby walker

Not being able to walk is no excuse for lack of exercise! There are lots of ways to get your baby moving in other ways. “Tummy time” – putting your baby on their tummy, helps develop their muscle tone and motor skills. It’s also a great opportunity to play with them. Put toys just out of their reach so they have to reach for them, or pull them out of your hand. Reduce the amount of awake time they spend in car seats, baby bouncers or walking aids. Swimming is another great way to make them stronger, and it’s great fun for both of you too!

Got any tips to get your little ones into action? Share them below…

Find out more about the new Department of Health physical activity guidelines.