By Double Duty Mama
One recent morning, as I hurriedly tried to get breakfast on the table, I noticed my older son walking around the living room. And walking, and walking and walking. He was doing laps around the furniture, through the kitchen and up and down the hall. I’m not one to discourage (or question) exercise, but my curiosity and annoyance got the best of me.
“WHAT are you doing?” I asked.
He pointed at his pedometer and replied, “Trying to get up to 10,000 steps.”
Right. I forgot about free pedometer he got at school the day before, and was now wearing on his belt. Every first through fifth grader in his school district, as well as those in two neighboring districts, were given a step counter as part of the nationwide Steppin’ Out for a Lifetime competition. Organized by the Virginia-based Medical Fitness Association, the competition was to promote the importance of physical activity in combating obesity and chronic illnesses. The kids were told about the consequences of not enough exercise and that they would log their steps every day for a week, with the goal of 10,000 steps (about five miles) a day.
Pretty savvy way to get kids to exercise, since the minute you turn anything into a game (“Let’s see who can get their pajamas on first!”), they are way more interested. When I dropped him off at school that morning, all the kids were comparing their pedometers. (My kid later told me some of the kids shook theirs to cheat their numbers higher, but reassured me he wouldn’t do that because then the number wouldn’t be true and he wouldn’t have had the exercise. I was so proud!)
But, as these things go, within a couple days I had to remind him to put his pedometer on. Instead of walking laps around the house, he was back to his regular weekday morning activities of playing or watching television.
On the fifth day, I found two more pedometers the kids had from other past events, and gave one to my younger son and clipped one to my pants pocket. Suddenly, the older boy regained interest. By then, competing with his friends was boring. But throw mom and brother into the race, and things got exciting again.
It was a good reminder to me about the so many “healthy” orders we give our kids, like “drink water” and “eat vegetables,” that we don’t always do ourselves. I’ve never enjoyed going to the gym, but always have a great time going on bike rides or hikes with friends or family. It’s always more fun to do things together, and, when it comes to physical fitness, making it a social or competitive activity makes it seem like less of a chore. Of course we know exercise is important to keep us and our kids healthy and fit. But don’t just tell them about it — do it with them.
For more ideas on how ways to get the whole family moving, check out First 5 LA’s Spring 2011 Family Guide, “Be Active.”