Six ways to kickstart an autumn fitness habit
How fit was your summer? We were surprised this week to learn that research conducted by not-for-profit organisation UKactive found children were measurably less fit after the summer holidays. Primary school children lost 80% of the fitness levels compared with term time.
The NHS recommends children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity everyday. With many children spending their holiday time on sedentary activities in the home, these targets are often not met.
Anne Longfield. Chief Executive of children’s charity 4Children has called for more to be done to recognise the importance of play, with more investment in play areas and parks. This would give parents and child-carers access to free, accessible outdoor activities. She also recommended GPs offer a ‘play prescription’ giving children access to play facilities in response to some emotional and physical conditions.
Food for thought! If you feel like your summer was less active than you’d like, Autumn is a great time to kick-start a new habit – for your children too. For many of us, routines are changing as we head into the school term, and September has that ‘new year’ feeling. So here are some ways to shake things up (literally!) and get more fitness into your family’s life this season:
Sign up for parkrun
Parkrun is an international organisation, run by volunteers, that offers free, weekly runs in parkland around the world. Adult runs are 5 kilometres long and junior runs, for children aged between 4 and 14 are 2 kilometres. All runs are timed, so you can see how your pace improves week by week. All you need to do is register and turn up! Check out the parkrun website to find local events.
Switch some car or bus journeys for walks
It’s hard when time is tight, but aim to find one or two journeys you make by car or bus and switch them for walking or cycling. Or do half and half regularly - get off the bus a stop early or park your car further away from your destination and finish the journey on foot.
Aim to get to the park or garden a couple of times a week and play tag all together – don’t just leave it to the kids, join in too! Other traditional games such as Stuck in the Mud or hide and seek are also great for moving around.
Skipping is a cheap and accessible way to get your heart pumping, wherever you can find a bit of outdoor space. It’s an intensive form of exercise, so work up from a few minutes at a time. Skipping is a fantastic way of developing children’s motor skills too.
Gardening is a great way to do gentle exercise outside. Weeding, deadheading flowers, raking fallen leaves and planting spring bulbs, or hardy green leaves such as spinach or lamb’s lettuce are all good early Autumn jobs suitable for gardeners young and old.
Have outdoor family time
Try and find a time slot each week where you can be together outside. It can be as simple as a walk in the local park, kicking a ball about, or you could head further afield to woods or hills. It doesn’t have to take a lot of planning or expense – the key is to spend time together and get your body moving.
If you’d like more ideas, the NHS has more inspiration on fun ways to get kids moving. And we’d love to hear your thoughts too – get in touch with your tips on how to build more physical activity into everyday life!