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The family way
7:00am Saturday 4th August 2012 in NewsXtra
If the Olympics makes you want to do more physical activity, the experts suggest ways to exercise and play together as a family, and how to encourage kids to take part in more diverse sports.
By Lisa Salmon
Putting the school summer holidays and the Olympics together should be a great recipe for active fun as a family.
But new research has found that more than two-thirds (68%) of family time is sedentary, with television the biggest family entertainer.
Yet the study, by Argos, also found that nearly a third (30%) of parents wanted to be more active, with one in five (18%) expressing a desire to simply play together more as a family - although a third were put off participating in sporting activities together as a family because it's too expensive.
But families can get over the hurdles with help from Olympic medallist Colin Jackson, who points out that if you keep exercise simple, it doesn't have to cost a lot.
"Some sports are expensive, but it could be something simpler," he says.
"If your kids want to go bowling, take them bowling, just get them active."
Former world champion hurdler Jackson, who's supporting the Mission KIDS (Kids into Diverse Sports) campaign to get children involved in a varied range of sports, points out that if children get the chance to try lots of different activities until they find one they really engage with, they'll be hooked on sport for life.
While a recent Mission KIDS report found that two-thirds of children think the most important thing about sport is to have fun, half the children questioned said there was a sport they'd like to play but hadn't had the chance.
The top activities they said would make them play more sport were archery, trampolining and Zumba.
Jackson says: "Open kids' eyes to what sport really is. It's activity - that means it can be anything just as long as you're active.
"Get kids to try everything."
But it's nice to try as much as possible as a family, particularly in the summer holidays, says Amanda Gummer, a psychologist who specialises in parenting and play.
She points out that just being outdoors as a family usually results in some form of activity, and there are plenty of active games to play together indoors if the weather's poor, such as treasure hunts, balloon tennis, etc.
"If you walk to places as a family, as opposed to jumping in the car, it's active, habit-forming, and doesn't cost anything either," she says.
"It's not about making huge changes, it's just about making sure you're all doing enough activity on a day-to-day basis. You all get used to a certain amount of activity and it becomes more natural for kids."
Gummer says watching the Olympics might make families want to be more active, but typically the inspiration from sporting events doesn't last long, which is why families should think about incorporating activity in to their lives more generally - for example, after a family lunch, go for a walk.
She stresses that parents need to be role models for kids, so if mum and dad walk/cycle to local destinations instead of driving, children will see travelling under their own steam as simply a normal part of life.
And she assures parents that they shouldn't feel guilty about doing a sport or going to the gym on their own.
"If the kids see that their mum or dad does a sport or goes to the gym and prioritises it, they'll see it as a good thing and accept it.
"Parents shouldn't always sacrifice their own adult exercise time to do stuff with the kids. You're giving them a good message if you're showing them exercise is important to you."
Jackson makes the following suggestions to get kids more active this summer:
:: Give kids something to aspire to and be excited about. Ask them what they want to do, and make the activities happen.
:: Give them the chance to be creative in their own way, and let them tell you what sport/activity they want to do. If it's learning to do the cha cha, let them choose the music.
:: Mums and dads, don't rely too much on schools, that should just be the foundation and you've got to be involved too. Listen to your kids.
:: Make it play, make it fun. There's nothing wrong with children feeling like they're playing - if they love it, they'll want to do more, and you've captured them for life.
:: Think about how the Greeks used the word gymnasium to mean a place to exercise the mind and body. Make the gym a place for kids to be educated physically and mentally.
:: In sport there are times when you succeed and that's great. There are also times when you fail, and that's OK too. Teaching kids how to deal with failure is important.
Ask the expert
Q: "I know breastfeeding's good for my baby and it'll help me lose weight at the time, but is it likely to make any difference to my weight and health in the long term?"
A: Dr Kirsty Bobrow, lead author of an Oxford University study which looked at the body mass index (BMI) of older women who had breastfed when younger, says: "There's increasing evidence from research which suggests that breastfeeding impacts women's own health and that the effects are long-lasting.
"For example, in our recently published study of women who were participants in the Million Women Study, which investigates how various reproductive and lifestyle factors affect women's health in later life (women were aged between 50 and 64 years), we found that for every six months women had breastfed, their BMI was 1% lower, even after accounting for other factors known to contribute to obesity such as smoking, lack of exercise and social deprivation.
"It's useful to remember that these effects were seen in women who had given birth on average 30 years previously. These findings suggest that just six months of breastfeeding by UK women could reduce their risk of obesity in later life.
"A 1% reduction in BMI may seem small for an individual woman, but spread across the population of the UK that could mean about 10,000 fewer premature deaths per decade from obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers."
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