Get Active with your Family this Summer

Summer is a great time to look at your family routine and find ways to get active. 
Physical activity in childhood is important because it develops habits that will last a life time. Physical activity helps children develop cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility and bone density. It also helps children feel better every day by developing confidence and improving mental health and well-being. Children who meet the Canadian physical activity guidelines are less likely to develop chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  
How much physical activity does my child need? 
According to the Canadian physical activity guidelines, children aged five to 17 should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. 
Children aged two to four years of age should get 180 minutes a day of physical activity at any intensity. Even more than this is better for all age groups! Moderate activities like walking and biking should be balanced with vigorous activities like running or playing soccer. 
What about screen time and sitting? 
Screen time includes watching television, playing computer games, and time on your cell phone. 
Children age five to 17 should get less than two hours per day in front of a screen outside of school activities. 
Children under two should not be getting any screen time, and children two to four years of age should be getting less than one hour per day. 
The more time children spend in front of a screen, the more calories they tend to consume from unhealthy foods (such as from snacking), the less sleep they get, and they are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, so less screen time is better.
Where do I start?
1. Limit screen time.
Create healthy screen time rules for the whole family. 
Start simple, with no phones at the dinner table. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that parents manage screen use, encourage meaningful screen use, and model healthy screen use. 
Instead of screen time, allow children to engage in unstructured play. Ask your teens what hobbies or sports they would like to try. The more they are involved in choosing the activity, the more likely they are to participate. 
When you go out, all family members leave the portable screens at home and let the creative juices flow!
2. Encourage outdoor play.
The benefits of outdoor play often outweigh the risks. 
Children who are consistently given an opportunity to play in nature usually demonstrate advanced coordination, motor skills, balance and agility. 
Outdoor play is also imaginative, and encourages children to play together collaboratively while developing problem solving skills and confidence.  
3. Plan regular family outings that involve physical activity.
  • Explore a new park or trail.
  • Find a pool or lake and take the plunge with the whole family.
  • Walk somewhere you would normally drive. 
  • Bike to the park after dinner. 
  • Play a sport together in a backyard or park. 
4. Look for opportunities for your child to learn a sport or skill. 
Learning a new skill is a great way to build self esteem and confidence. During the time of COVID-19, many team sports are on hold (e.g. soccer and hockey).  
Youth can still practice skills required for team sports at home with online videos and Zoom practices. This is a great way for children and youth to stay engaged with their current sport or learn new skills by trying yoga or exercise videos.
5. Sports that allow for social distancing
Opportunities to learn a sports that allow for social distancing like tennis, golf, paddling, surfing and swimming are great options for summer fun. 
In addition to the health benefits, sports can also improve strategic thinking and math skills.  Children and youth who are involved in sports develop skills in leadership, teamwork and discipline. You can take up sports and skills as a family or explore what is currently available by checking for updates by Sport Nova Scotia at or your local municipality.