I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but walking is vital to our kids health. And yet, in the midst of our busy everyday lives, we often end up driving them everywhere because walking takes time. And sometimes persuasion. But it’s so worth it if you can find that extra time and energy. In this post I’ll tell you just why walking is so important – and give you 10 tips on how to get your littles one to use those legs.
Walking is one of the most important basic human motions, if not the most important. Unfortunately it’s my experience that walking is often a motion that kids are deprived off on a daily basis because of our busy everyday lives. It’s just easier for us adults to drive them, push them in a stroller or bike them around in a cargo bike. Sadly this often means that kids get use to not walking on their own and they’ll quickly lack the stamina to walk for longer stretches and get tired, cranky or annoyed when they are asked to walk. The result being that we end up driving them again, since we don’t have an endless supply of time. It’s a never ending cycle. And one that I’m much more familar with that I would like to admit.
The benefits of walking daily – and why it’s crucial to your’s and your kids’ health
When I returned to work after maternity leave with my youngest, we stopped walking everywhere like we had done every day for over a year. Suddenly we were almost always in a bit of a hurry and taking the time to walk was not something we prioritized, because we had to get home, cook dinner and get ready to bed. But that has since changed. You see, my body started to ache, my kid’s mood dropped and when we did go for walks, my oldest would have a hard time walking for longer stretches. So we started walking again, and even though we don’t get to go for a longer walk every day, my body is already feeling better, my kids are less moody and my oldest can again walk the distances she used to be able to.
You might say, that neither you or your kids need to walk, since you go to the gym and they play sports a few times a week. Don’t get me wrong, playing sports is awesome and so is physical play. Both offer a lot of different movements and are great for your kids’ health, but it simply can’t replace walking. In the words of Katy Bowman, the woman behind Nutrituous Movement: Walking is not an option. It’s a requirement. It’s an essential movement that your body was literally build to do (just like hanging, reaching, pushing and pulling, but that’s for another day) and walking doesn’t just involve the legs and feet, but pretty much the whole body, including the brain. If you hurt somewhere in your body, try walking more.
You can’t substitute walking with any other type of movement, though it would be convenient, since walking takes time and – in my opinion – is often neglected because of just this. We live in a busy world and often we need for things to go fast and walking doesn’t quite fit that bill. Especially since you need to be doing it every day – and preferably for longer stretches of time.
Unfortunately walking is too important for kids (and adults) to be ignored or postponed. It not only keeps our bodies healthy by allowing it to do what it was designed for, but it also helps teach our kids to move around in the real world and give them a sense of independence. And on top of that, it also has a whole bunch of other advantaged that we as parents could also benefit from. Walking raises your mood and boost your energy levels, increases your overall fitness and stamina, makes your think more clearly and improves your memory as well as lowers the risk of a lot of diseases and illness like strokes, heart diseases and so on. Walking is pretty awesome. Some types of walking is better than other – and going barefoot, using minimalist footwear and walking in nature is preferable, but if that’s not an option for you, walking is always better than not walking.
And guess what? Walking is completely free, requires absolutely no special equipment and can be done pretty much anywhere and at any time, so there’s really no excuse to not get walking. And an even bigger plus, you don’t need to sweat like crazy to obtain all of the health benefits! In my opinion one of the best things you can do as a parent is to walk on a regularly basis with your kids and when they are older, encourage them to walk more on their own as well. Walking to the store, to friends and family and whenever you need to go somewhere in walking distance, is a great habit!
10 tips on how to get your kids walking more – and how to make it fun
1. Bring snacks and water for longer walks – or go by a place that sells it.
I always bring snacks when I’m out and about with the kids. All my jacket pockets, my bags and even my backpack for work contain at least one fruit snack, smoothie or pack of crackers for each of my children. And I try to always bring a water bottle as well. If your are anything like mine, you’ll have a hell of a job getting them to walk anywhere if they get hungry, so never go down on food, water and snacks! You could also change it up a bit if you know you’re going past a store that sells food, by setting them them up for a treat during the walk. In the summer we like to go out to get ice cream. I still bring snacks for the trip home though, just in case.
2. Don’t turn it into a chore
I can’t underline enough how important this realization has been for me. I know it seems obvious, but in the midst of everyday life, you can sometimes forget. Personally I can’t even recall how many times I’ve used the phrase “Come oooooon. We need to get moving” – and with very poor results. One would think I would have learned rather quickly that this phrase was not helpful at all, but it took an incredible succesful walk home from daycare one day, before it dawned on me: walking needs to be fun – not to feel like a chore. And ever since that day our walks have been much more fun, though I will admit that I do fall into the “come on”-trap once in a while. It takes time to break habits.
3. Be realistic and let your child build up his or her endurance.
Your kids won’t be able to go for a 5k walk right after they’ve taken their first step – and even older kids might need some time to build up their stamina for walking longer distance or for longer periods of time. Maybe go for short walks in the beginning – and then slowly add on the minutes. You could also go for several small walks a day. A short stroll in the morning and one in the evening or after work. Some people have succes with bringing a stroller for their younger kids. We had mixed results. My oldest would get tired much faster when she saw the stroller – my youngest would refuse to sit in it and could somehow walk for even longer stretches, so it depends on your child. A wowen wrap or carrier could be an option as well or just taking small breaks along the way.
4. Use pedometers or fitness trackers.
A lot of people like measuring things and get motivated by it – and the same often goes for kids. It can be fun to see how long it takes to walk 1.000 steps, how many steps there is to their friends house, or to compeet against themselves by setting up challenges for them like “walk 2.000 steps today” or “see how many steps it takes to get to the library if we choose this route compared to this route”. You can find pedometers and fittness trackers made specifically for kids on Amazon that goes on the wrist just like an old fashioned watch. Garmin makes some awesome looking kids fitness trackers that not only fits a child’s wrist, but also has some cool designs, but a regular pedometer will do the job just as well. Just make sure walking doesn’t becomes a chore or your kids start refusing to walk because they’ve forgotten their tracker. That will kind of defeat the purpose.
5. Dress for the weather.
So simple, so true. Sometimes we’ve been stuck at home though we’ve wanted to go out for a walk, but the thought of a meltdown over putting on snowsuits have put a damper on it. So lately I’ve been a bit more flexible – at least with my oldest. She’s gotten to put on her boots, a hat and whatever thick jacket or sweater she’s wanted and we’ve gone for a quick walk – or a run up and down the hill we live on. Just to get her out moving. Othertimes I let both my kids put on whatever they’ve wanted and brought the rest with me – and as they’ve realized it’s freezing outside, they’ve been more than eager to put that jackets on. Usually this happens within the first 1 minute out the door, but sometimes they’ve refused for the entire walk, and I’ve just been okay with it and maybe made it a bit shorter trip.
6. Get a dog.
Okay, this is probably not a suggestion for everyone. I mean, we don’t even have a dog ourselves and have no intention of getting one. But I did have one as a kid that needed to be taken out for walks at least once a day – and usually more. That meant a lot of walks, either as a family or by myself as I got older. So if you’re considering adopting one, then this might be the time to go make it happen.
7. Give the walk a purpose.
It’s often easier to get your kids to walk if it’s not just for the sake of walking. I often bring the kids with me to the store, to forage berries or to pick flowers to give to others, to go to the train station instead of being driven in a car and to visit their grandparents (who we’re very fortunate live in walking distance). Whenever we have the time we also walk to and from their daycare and walking to school will definitely also be something they’ll be doing when they reach that age. Walking to and from places like daycare and school together also gives you an oppertunity to connect with your kids in a way that can be difficult when they sit in the backseat of your car.
8. Bring other kids that your children look up to.
It might be a cousin, or the kid from next door. But kids look up to other kids and if their cool cousin is all about walking then they’ll must likely be much more enthusiastic about going. Of course you can’t always rely on other people’s kids to be available, but take advantage when they are.
9. Be an example and walk with them.
Just don’t expect them to be able to walk for as long as you can. Not to begin with anyway. Often we want out kids to do better than us, but if we really want them to walk more, then we have to do it ourselves. We all know this, but when it comes to putting it into action, it’s like we tend to forget. So get walking!
10. Choose a child friendly route.
If you want to go for a walk for the sake of walking, and not because you need to go somewhere, then you should definitely consider going to a child friendly place or choosing a route that takes you past one. It dosen’t have to be a playground. Most kids will love to explore nature if given the chance, so try to go past a creek, the forest or maybe a park. Whatever your area has to offer.
Walking is so important for both yours and your kids’ health, but I for one know, that it can be quite the challenge to sqeeuze it into a busy lifestyle. I often struggle to get out for walks with my kids and we often end up just going outside in our garden. I have however become very conscious about going out for walks on a regular basis by simply prioritizing it. Sometimes that means preparing a meal in advance or leaving the kitchen a mess until after the kids have gone to bed, and I’m starting to become okay with that.
If you have any tips on how to get your kids walking more – and how to make it fun, then please share!