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Regular physical activity in children and young people is associated with improved learning, better mental health, healthier weight status and better cardiovascular fitness. Doing more walking is vital for our children’s health.
We all have busy periods in our lives, but prioritising time for a family walk is something we all need to do. And it is completely free, so there is no real excuse to not do more walking.
Some children are more interested in playing computer games and watching TV, rather than being outdoors and getting active. Sometimes, it may take some persuasion to get them to go for a walk. But, encouraging children to be active will give them the energy they need, helping them stay happy and healthy.
Making walking a part of their regular day-to-day routine is a great way to start healthy lifestyle choices, sooner rather than later.
Having a dog can encourage children to take ownership of the animal, which they must take care of it by going on regular walks. If you don’t have a family dog, you could always offer to take a neighbour’s dog for a walk – giving time to help others is one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing.
Visiting scenic locations and organising fun activities for the walk can boost your child’s interest in outdoor physical activities. We have some exciting kid friendly routes here in Dorset, where you can also enjoy some activities along the way. You could start with the Jurassic Coast, Durlston Country Park, and Moors Valley. Discover more child friendly walks.
To help make walking a regular routine for your child, you could encourage an interest in nature through books and websites. Then follow-up with field trips so they can discover their favourite places, animals, and plants for themselves, while enjoying the health benefits of walking at the same time.
Scheduling regular family walks is a great way to pass on healthy habits to your children and spend time together, while getting active at the same time. You could make it a daily short 30-minute walk or a weekly one-hour trail – making it more regular will really benefit the whole family’s health and wellbeing.
Choosing a suitable distance, location and route is important, too much walking can be exhausting. When walking with children, we need to make sure the route and length of time spent walking is appropriate to their age. Approximately 1km per birthday is a good rule of thumb.
Starting good habits early could encourage children to keep up walking activities throughout their childhood. You could start with taking young babies and toddlers for walks in their pram, and as they get older, encourage them to walk part of the way.
If your kids are old enough to walk on their own, you could encourage them by asking them to count their steps using a smartwatch or smartphone and set them daily or weekly targets.
Most importantly, having fun during your family walk is a great way to encourage children to enjoy the physical activity. Whether it is singing songs, playing games or spotting birds and insects, keeping them engaged and motivated is key.
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