Ours is the first generation of children set to have a shorter lifespan than their parents, according Mari Leach, biokineticist at Discovery Vitality.

“Globally, less than 20% of kids meet recommendations for physical activity, and while there have been incredible advances in medical and wellness technology, they can’t seem to counterbalance the growing increase in lifestyle-related risk factors.”

With the TV, tuckshop and the corner café tugging your child towards obesity and inactivity, it’s more important than ever to guide your children’s habits.

Cutting down on sedentary screen time will free up more time for physical play and outdoor activity.

Regular activity helps children function better, maintain a healthy weight, learn social skills and do better at school.

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A lack of social support keeps kids from getting more active

Increasing demands of school, homework, a feeling that they aren’t good at sport, and a lack of active role models or places to play outside, busy working families and safety, are some of the obstacles identified by Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report Card  (HAKSA) 2016.

Despite these challenges, parents can instill a love of activity and build movement into daily routine. “In fact, the most powerful influence was when parents participated in physical activity with their children, and gave them encouragement,” says Leach.

7 Ways to help your kids get active

1. Encourage a variety of activities

Playing a variety of games and sports exposes kids to different patterns of strain, multiple skill sets, movement patterns and coordination, as well as gain different types of fitness. Revert to the classics – Hopscotch, Hide n Seek, Eggie in the Middle and Stuck in the Mud.

2. Give gifts of health

A cricket bat or soccer ball instead of a video game is more likely to get kids moving.

3. Schedule active time

Plan regular family walks, make time during holidays for active games, replace Friday night pizza with a putt-putt tournament, and instead of an ice-cream outing, hike together.

4. Make movement part of your life

It doesn’t cost much to get a couple of balls and invite some friends over for a soccer game, hand tennis, or to go to a park to play frisbee. Organising a climbing, gymnastics or ‘mini Olympics’ birthday party makes movement fun.

5. Be a supporter

Simply turning up to watch your kids play soccer at school or swim in a gala, or arranging lifts to practices sends the message that you support your children in being active.

6. parkrun together

Find a free, weekly local 5km run/walk every Saturday morning.

7. Set a good example

If you want your kids to love being active, show them how you prioritise it yourself. Your presence and example will encourage them to take part in things like fun runs, bike races or weekend touch games.

How this mom got it right, and won her family a trip to Paris!

Joanne Rainier-Pope is a mom who clearly took strategies like these to heart: she made sure she entered her family into a competition designed by Discovery Vitality to help families get active together. By participating in weekly parkruns and earning 1 000 Vitality fitness points within a few months, Joanne, her husband Paul and her daughters Robyn and Dale have themselves won a 5-star experience in Disneyland® Paris.

The family’s loyalty and commitment to a healthier lifestyle has paid off in a way they’ve only imagined.

“We have been Vitality members since inception, 21 years ago,” Joanne says. “The Vitality Active Rewards programme has made us push our fitness levels higher than ever, offering the motivation to do the Rondebosch Common parkrun on Saturday mornings.” Now, thanks to their efforts to become fitter as a family, they’re jetting off to Europe for a luxury family adventure.

There’s another Disneyland trip to give away in 2018

If you’re inspired by Joanne’s dedication to encourage healthy habits in her family, there is one more chance this year to win this amazing experience for your own family, courtesy of Discovery Vitality and Disney. All you need to do is make healthier food choices.

To enter the competition, you must complete the following before 31 December 2018:
1. Activate the HealthyFood benefit and earn up to 25% cash back at Pick n Pay or Woolworths.
2. Earn 500 HealthyFood points by buying HealthyFood items for your family.

(You can visit the Discovery website for healthy recipe ideas  and get your kids involved in meal preparation. Kids aged 8 to 12 years can also learn how to make delicious, healthy meals at the HealthyFood Studio. (Terms and conditions apply.)

Concludes Leach, herself a mother of two, “While we cannot be with our kids 24-7, we can empower them to learn the difference between a healthy and unhealthy choice of their own accord. But to get there, our children need more than mere guidance; they need – and in fact, deserve – our health activism.”

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.