10 ways to be a more active family in the UAE
With the rise of obesity in the UAE, it’s never been more important to have a healthy lifestyle, Kings’ School Al Barsha offer their tips on how to help your family to be more active
1. Strike a pose. Numerous studies suggest that yoga can be beneficial for children by soothing stress, aiding concentration and paving the way for better sleep. Start the day in a healthy way with an easy yoga pose you can do together in the living room. Cosmic Kids has a fab, free posture poster you can print out and stick on the wall for inspiration. We’re adopting the ‘Camel’ pose as our signature move!
2. Revamp the school run. Few of us are lucky enough to be able to walk our kids to school, but you can still build some activity into the daily drop off. Sidestep the traffic by parking a few hundred metres away from your usual drop off point and walk the rest of the distance. The short burst of activity will provide an energy boost for the day ahead.
3. Join an after school club. After school activities have come a long way – at Kings’, for instance, children can hone their skills in everything from ballroom dancing to Brazilian martial arts. Help your little one to find an activity he or she is passionate about, and exercise won’t feel like a chore.
4. Assign them daily tasks. Helping with age appropriate chores around the house is an important life lesson for children, but it also adds to their daily exercise. Once you’ve decided on the chore, such as packing away toys for four- to five-year-olds, or giving the kitchen countertops a wipe for ages 10 and over, set the scene by showing your child how it’s done. Next, help him do it under your supervision. Once you’re confident he’s mastered the chore, he can go it alone.
5. Limit screen time. One of the most effective measures families can take to stay active is to cut down on screen time. While there are no clear guidelines set in the UK, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently revised its advice to outline that screen time should not exceed one hour per day with parental supervision for two- to five-year-olds. Those aged six and over should have limited, monitored access to ensure screen time doesn’t displace sleeping, playing, conversation and physical activities.
6. Make it a priority. “Family life can often be hectic due to our busy schedules, but we must always make time to keep health and fitness as a priority,” says Iain Stewart, Head of PE, Kings’ School Al Barsha. “Dubai prides itself on its parks, cycle tracks and open water areas and I always ensure that my family and I do something active during the week or at the weekend. On top of spending quality time together, leading a healthy lifestyle as a family is great staying healthy.”
7. Get back to nature. Encourage children to explore the great outdoors and make the most of the emirate’s natural assets. From building sandcastles on the beach to kayaking in the mangroves, there are numerous ways to connect with nature that will capture the imagination at the same time.
8. Play swapsies. Despite our best efforts, children can quickly tire of their belongings. Keep it interesting by regularly rotating gear such as skateboards, roller skates and scooters and bikes with your friends, so your little ones always have something new to play with, and a new skill to master.
9. Take the dog for a walk. Guiding a pup around your local community or park is an easy way add some excitement to your daily stroll. If you don’t have a dog of your own, ask if you can take your neighbour’s or friend’s dog out for a run. The children will love it.
10. Set a goal. Entering into an organised fitness event can provide excellent inspiration to get fit. “As a family, we often set ourselves different goals to keep us motivated,” says Kings’ parent Sarah Shackleton, mum to Kyle and Jenna. “We’ve signed up for events such as the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon and Dubai Marathon in the past, and I completed a triathlon in Jebel Ali recently. We are lucky that both our children enjoy their sport and that we can have active fun as a family. We encourage and support each other at all our sporting events.”