Wednesday, 20 June 2018

From Xbox to exercise – how to encourage your children to be more active

There are many blogs that outline the virtues of spending more time outside, indeed we have written some ourselves – take this one, for example:

Given the ever increasing pull of electrical devices, it’s even more important to do all we can to get our children outside whenever we can. It won’t be easy, but with a bit of effort it can be done – and the kids will really thank us for it! And with National guidelines suggesting 30 minutes exercise, five days a week, the sooner we start, the better.

Do as I do – and as I say

We're all guilty of staring at our phones a little bit longer than we should – is it any wonder that our children follow suit? The key to unplugging our kids and getting them outside is to provide a positive role model for them to replicate. Set yourself certain screen times during the day when you can check your own devices – and make sure you dedicate some time to exercise too, preferably when your children can see. Perhaps there are exercises or activities that you and your kids could do together?

Find me in the club

There are an array of organised clubs and exercise groups for kids, many of which offer free trial sessions before you have to sign up. As much as time allows it, encourage your children to try as many different activities as they can until they find something that they really enjoy. If your children like football, rugby and cricket, it will be easy to find something that peaks their interest. But it doesn’t have to be traditional sports clubs, there are lots of activities that will get your child moving – try street dance, cheerleading or children's yoga and see what they think.

Take advantage of the great outdoors

Exercise classes and teams can take a lot of time and money. If both of these are against you, then it’s time to look closer to home for your kids’ daily exercise fix. It could be that your work means attending groups at the same time every week is difficult, or maybe the equipment needed and class fees make joining an organised group difficult, however there are plenty of way of building exercise into your child’s daily routine, it just takes a bit of creativity and effort. Here are some suggestions:

· Play in the park – most are free to visit and you can usually find one within a reasonable distance of home. If you have to walk there, why not consider either walking with a purpose or organising a nature treasure trail en-route. Find out how here:

· Choose some chores – you’re never too young to do chores and most provide excellent exercise too. What’s better is that you can use the chores to reward your children with appropriate, time-limited screen time once they’re complete. We’ve outlined some child-friendly activity chores here:

· Step back in time – set some simple equipment aside (like a tennis ball, some hoops and some chalk, for example) and encourage your kids to play outside, like children used to way-back-when. Don’t tell them what the equipment is for – leave it to them to decide what to play and how to organise themselves. You can find some ideas and inspiration here:

We hope these ideas will help you to not only set aside some electronic-free time for you and your children, but also discover some fun and frivolous activities that will get your heart rate going and put a big smile on everyone’s face!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The benefits of getting closer to nature

The benefits on our mental health and wellbeing from spending time in nature have been confirmed by numerous scientific studies. Researchers are still exploring whether green spaces or blue spaces (those of an aquatic nature) have the greatest benefits, but what is clear is that while more remote and biodiverse spaces have the greatest positive impact on our wellbeing, even urban parks and trees can have a huge positive impact on our wellbeing. 

So how can we get more time outside? Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Walk with a purpose

Make a pledge to take a short walk every day and replace a car journey with a walk whenever possible. While on your walk make it your mission to fill a bag with as much recyclable rubbish you can find. You’ll be surprised how quickly the bag will fill up and you can return home knowing that not only have you made yourself a little fitter, you have also done your bit for the environment too.

Try to find treasure

It can be too easy to focus on what’s wrong with our immediate environment, to the point that we lose sight of the beauty that surrounds us. When you’re outside, set yourself a challenge to find items of natural ‘treasure’ like feathers, bones, some pink blossom, or a four-leaf clover. It might seem a silly exercise, but what you’re actually doing is focusing on what’s around you, which promotes a mindful outlook.

Sow some seeds

Sometimes we can feel as though our outside space is getting smaller, as the need to house a growing population puts pressure on our green spaces. However, size doesn’t matter when it comes to nature, so if you feel you don’t have any green space to enjoy – why not create some? A mini meadow outside your back door, a few hanging baskets to attract the bees or a window box filled with flowers that butterflies love are all simple ways of bringing nature to your door when space is an issue.

Get closer to nature – literally!

What better way to be more grateful for the outside environment that surrounds us than by literally getting closer to nature. What do we mean? Take off your shoes and socks to walk barefoot around the garden or in the park, roll up your trousers and walk through a stream. Just the very act of experiencing nature helps us appreciate what we have.

If you want to find out more about the health benefits associated with being outdoors, this article does a really good job. Not only could you see an improvement in your short term memory, it could also help to lift any mild depression and feelings of anxiety you could be experiencing.

Even just ten minutes appreciating nature – a walk around the garden, a few minutes weeding or watering the plants – can go a long way to resetting your spirits and clearing your mind. That's a small effort for maximum gain!