How to be an active example to your kids

Eve Dugdale
Eve Dugdale - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Eating your dinner while sitting on the sofa, you pull up a blanket and change the channel on the television.

Your son walks over and asks if you’ll play football with him.

You refuse. After all, it’s too hot outside, it’s been a tough day at work and you need to relax.

But you said no this morning – you needed an extra 20 minutes in bed.

It’s OK though, he does sport at school and your nanny often takes him jogging in the park, does it really matter if you get involved?

The answer is yes.

Research carried out by the Australian Sports Commission shows that parents could be the biggest influencers of a child’s fitness.

And with obesity being such a big problem in the Middle East, surely it’s time we all motivated ourselves if it meant giving our offspring a better start in life.

Mum to four-year-old Dylan, Helen Pletts recently moved back to the UK from the UAE. She says parents are often too busy to factor activity into their days – and this is the same in all parts of the world.

She says: “Since coming back and getting Dylan into a little school, I’ve been shocked to realise just from how far away kids are traveling in to the school. A few miles in some cases so parents need to drive the kids in. It was the same in Abu Dhabi. A lot of people can’t afford to live near schools now and it’s too far or unsafe for many to walk. Often parents are then off to work so it’s easier to drive and drop and carry on.

“Having said that, parents need to be setting a good example. Since moving home we have been enjoying being able to walk and enjoy nature so much more and without paying tons of money for it – you just need to find ways to get active as a family.”

And whether it’s climbing stairs together or letting the kids race you on their bikes while you jog, getting active with your children can be fun.

Rachel Askin is mum to five-year-old twins. She says: “My husband and I have lost 22kg between us in the last year from getting active. We do family HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) sessions in the garden and family runs too. We’ve never forced it on the kids but they really enjoy joining in with us. I think it’s important they see us and realise everything is about balance - we also have nights on the sofa with sweets too!”

Proving you don’t need expensive gym memberships or costly equipment, Rachel adds: “We use skipping ropes and cones but we also use the kids as weights sometimes.”

Nicola Reddin is a PE teacher who used to teach at a school in Dubai. She says it’s surprising how much money and effort parents put into helping children develop a love of sport and activity without realising they could boost this interest even more if they got involved themselves.

She says: “Lots of parents would take their children to a variety of activities outside school – rugby, horse riding and so on, but they wouldn’t do any themselves. A lot of the time, I felt us PE teachers influenced the children to be active not the parents.

“I used to do a mums versus daughters netball match at the end of the season and mums would come to show support but very few actually played.

“Many times if a child was overweight, their parents would be too.”

And Dubai-based journalist Lauren Steadman proves you’re never too old to be influenced by your parents.

She says: “My parents have shamed me into getting fit. They’re in their seventies but seem to fit in golf, gym, yoga and long walks.”